According to a recently published study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), vehicles with higher, more blunt front ends are more dangerous to pedestrians. IIHS says that vehicles with a hood height higher than 40 inches are 45% more likely to cause fatalities in pedestrian accidents than vehicles with a hood height of 30 inches or less.

Pedestrian accident deaths have risen 80% since their lowest point in 2009. In 2021, more than 20 people died per day after being hit by a vehicle.

Over the last 30 years, the average vehicle has gotten about 4 inches wider, 10 inches longer, 8 inches taller, and 1,000 pounds heavier in the US. Many vehicles are more than 40 inches tall at the leading edge of the hood.

The IIHS study examined 17,897 crashes involving a single passenger vehicle and a single pedestrian. Using Vehicle Identification Numbers to identify the vehicles, they calculated front-end measurements corresponding to 2,958 unique car, minivan, large van, SUV, and pickup models. Vehicles with pedestrian automatic emergency braking systems were excluded from the study, along with others that could affect the likelihood of a fatality, such as speed limit, and age of the struck pedestrian.

Front End Size Fatalities

The study found that vehicles with hoods more than 40 inches off the ground at the leading edge and a grille sloped at an angle of 65 degrees or less, were 45% more likely to cause pedestrian fatalities than those with a similar slope and hood heights of 30 inches or less. Vehicles with hood heights of more than 40 inches and blunt front end angled at greater than 65 degrees were 44% more likely to cause fatalities.

Researchers looked at several other vehicle characteristics, including the angle of the windshield, the length of the hood, and the angle of the hood. Among these, the slope of the hood had the biggest effect. There was a 25% increase in the risk of fatality for vehicles with flat hoods (those with angles of 15 degrees or less) compared to vehicles with more sloping hoods.

Researchers found that vehicles taller than 35 inches were more dangerous to pedestrians because they tend to cause more severe head injuries. Of the vehicles taller than 35 inches, those with more blunt front ends were more dangerous than those with sloped front ends, because they cause more frequent and severe torso and hip injuries.

“Manufacturers can make vehicles less dangerous to pedestrians by lowering the front end of the hood and angling the grille and hood to create a sloped profile,” IIHS Senior Research Transportation Engineer Wen Hu, the lead author of the study, said in a statement on Tuesday. “There’s no functional benefit to these massive, blocky fronts.”