Road safety study: SUVs are more dangerous to cyclists than cars

Road safety study: SUVs are more dangerous to cyclists than cars

SUVs cause more severe injuries to bicyclists than cars, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows.

The tall front end of SUVs can strike bicyclists higher on their bodies above the center of gravity. This results in riders getting knocked down, where they can be run over, rather than being thrown onto the hood of the vehicle, said IIHS statistician Sam Monfort, the lead author of the study.

The study analyzed data from 71 Michigan bicycle crashes that involved a single SUV or car and a bicyclist age 16 or older. The severity of injuries inflicted by cars and SUVs was compared using the Abbreviated Injury Scale — which assesses injuries by body region — and the Injury Severity Score, which combines injuries from different regions into an overall assessment.

Ground-impact injuries were twice as common in SUV crashes, the study showed. Trauma to the body was 55 percent higher for SUVs than for cars. Scores for head injuries inflicted by SUVs were 63 percent higher.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety used the study’s findings to urge US political leaders to “stop preventing crashes from occurring in the first place.”

Pointing to “unacceptable” crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Kids and Car Safety, car safety advocate Cathy Chase said safety technologies can prevent such forward-moving crashes.

“The US Department of Transportation must fulfill the vehicle safety rulemaking mandated in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act with great expediency and urgency,” Chase said in a statement. “This includes issuing minimum performance standards for advanced driver assistance systems including AEB and other crash avoidance technologies.”

Chase is president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

Advanced driver-assist systems should be standard on all new vehicles to ensure safety of “all road users,” Chase said. Safety upgrades like ADAS are often part of a luxury package or a part of high-trim models that many cannot afford, he said.

Fatal bicycle crash rates have been on the rise in the last decade. In 2021, 966 cyclists were reported killed in crashes, according to NHTSA. This is up from 621 bicyclist fatalities in 2010, IIHS said.

“With bicyclists out enjoying warmer weather conditions, taking a bike ride must not turn into a death sentence,” Chase said. “Our federal leaders must take immediate action to advance known and available solutions to make our roadways safe for those on a bike as well as all road users.”

Editor’s note: Some vehicles commonly referred to as SUVs are classified as crossovers by Automotive News.