Bigger Pickup Trucks – Smaller Safety Margins – Pedestrians at Risk

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by Craig M. Aronow, Esq.

Supersize Pickup Trucks Put Pedestrians at Higher Risk for Injuries

U.S. pickup truck sales have eclipsed auto sales for several years running, and as more and more Americans step up into the driver’s seat, the risk to pedestrians has spiked. The number of vehicle-caused pedestrian deaths has increased 59% over the past decade. In many instances, a trucking accident lawyer can help.

How Pickup Trucks Have Changed

The Ford F-Series pickup trucks were the best-selling vehicles of 2021. Chevrolet Silverados came in a close second. Although the latest pickups are optimized for towing, most pickup truck drivers mainly use their vehicles for family car trips and errands around town.

As a result, the once-iconic pickup truck with two doors, a single bench seat up front and a hauling bed in the rear looks a lot different these days The vast majority of newer pickups have four doors, extended passenger cabins with two rows of seats and, often, a shorter cargo bed.

According to recent surveys, about three-fourths of these truck owners use their rigs for hauling only once a year. Seventy percent go off-roading just once a year. Most families use their pickups for daily commutes, errands around town and road trips.

This change from rural to urban usage is one reason pedestrians are more at risk. Since more people navigate city streets on foot, more pickup trucks on city streets pose an increasing danger.

Factors Pushing the Popularity of Pickups

The new luxury pickup trucks are best sellers in the automotive market. However, just like most trending products, they’re not for everyone. These super-sized trucks:

  • Consume more gas than most autos
  • Are harder to park
  • Make wider turns
  • Are more expensive than many cars
  • Require more expensive upkeep/tires/replacement parts
  • Are harder to get in and out of

However, for pickup enthusiasts, the pros outweigh the cons. The advantages of pickup ownership include:

  • Large towing capacity
  • Large cargo capacity
  • Superior power and torque
  • Off-road capability
  • Luxury interiors and upgrades
  • Equal to or greater than any other passenger vehicle in terms of size and horsepower

Some people even buy pickup trucks because they believe they’ll be safer on pickup-packed roads. This is a dubious strategy for a couple of reasons. First, a pickup has a higher center of gravity than a typical car, which means there is a greater chance of a pickup rolling over in an accident. Secondly, the size of a pickup fosters a false sense of security. Smaller vehicles are more agile and responsive to traffic hazards.

Why Today’s Pickup Trucks Endanger Pedestrians

The sheer size of newer pickups may make pedestrians, children and pets on the roadside all but invisible. The height of some Ford F series pickups is 78-82 inches, which is almost 7 feet tall. The front grill alone would block the driver’s view of pedestrians crossing the street ahead.

Another factor that pertains to pickups hitting pedestrians is the thickness of the A-pillars that frame the windshield, which holds up the roof. As trucks have become larger, so have the frame parts. In fact, researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have found that the thicker A-pillars are behind many pickup-pedestrian accidents.

When a pickup truck is turning left at an intersection, the A-pillar creates a blind spot that can prevent the driver from seeing pedestrians crossing the street to the left. According to the IIHS, pickup trucks are 47% more likely than cars to hit pedestrians when making left turns.

Additionally, the higher front ends on newer pickups create dangerous frontal blind spots. These blind areas may extend several feet ahead of the vehicle. They partially or fully hide pedestrians, especially children, from a driver’s view.

In non-intersection settings, the IIHS found pickups to be 80% more likely than cars to hit pedestrians who are walking or jogging along the roadside. This type of accident accounts for more pedestrian fatalities, too, because the trucks are going at highway speeds rather than slowing for turns at intersections.

The impact of a larger, heavier vehicle, like a pickup, on an unprotected pedestrian has far more potential than a small car to cause serious injury and death. The larger, blunter front-end design of contemporary pickups is more likely to do serious damage than a sloped, lower hood.

In 2020, pickup truck drivers caused 6,500 pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. In that same year, nearly 58,000 people suffered nonfatal injuries in vehicle-pedestrian accidents. If you have been injured in such an accident, or a loved one has been killed in a pickup truck-pedestrian encounter, get in touch with a trucking accident lawyer without delay.

Safety Strategies for Pedestrians

At some point, everybody is a pedestrian whether that means walking from the parking space to the storefront or walking everywhere. As a pedestrian, you can stay safer with a few simple strategies.

  • Wear bright colors that drivers can easily see, even in bad weather.
  • Never assume that traffic laws or lights will protect you; always use caution when entering a crosswalk.
  • Avoid jaywalking.
  • If a crosswalk is not nearby, cross carefully where visibility is good, and traffic is light.
  • Do not challenge a driver to stop by stepping into the street since a pickup driver may not be able to see you.

How Truck Manufacturers Are Addressing the Safety Issues

After researching the probable causes of pickup truck and pedestrian accidents, the IIHS has made some recommendations for automakers. For example, it endorses the development of new automatic emergency braking systems that detect pedestrians and slow the vehicle in response.

A more sloped design that replaces the blunt front end of the typical new truck is a possible fix for the lack of front visibility. The agency also suggests that manufacturers find solutions to the A-pillar blind spots that affect a driver’s view when making left turns.

Some manufacturers’ latest pickup models already offer safety options to address some of these issues. For example, the Dodge Ram 1500 comes equipped with a front collision warning feature and blind-spot monitoring.

Pickup models that include the Toyota Tacoma and Chevy Silverado provide blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and front collision warning systems as standard features. The Silverado also boasts automatic front pedestrian braking and a side blind-zone alert system. GMC’s Sierra pickup has a standard safety suite that includes pedestrian detection, automatic braking in emergencies and a blind-spot monitor.

With these features, manufacturers are responsive to the pedestrian safety issues raised by the increasing popularity of pickup trucks. Drivers also have to be aware of the inherent risks that pickups pose to pedestrians, including blind spots and lethal force. By making adjustments in their driving styles, pickup owners can help reduce accidental injuries and pedestrian deaths.

Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, LLP Can Help

If you have been hurt in a pedestrian-pickup truck accident in the New Jersey region, contact Rebenack, Aronow & Mascolo, LLP (RAM Law) at (732) 247-3600. We focus on truck accidents of all types, and we have the know-how to resolve such matters in your favor. You are legally entitled to compensation for your injuries or a loved one’s death due to an accident caused by someone else. Send us a message today to initiate a case review.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us online or call our offices, in New Brunswick at (732) 247-3600, in Somerville at (908) 448-2560, or in Freehold at (732) 828-2234.

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