IIHS Sharply Criticizes Automakers over Front-End Designs in New Report

vehicles in intersection
New IIHS Data Gives Bleak View of Tall VehiclesInsurance Institute for Highway Safety
  • According to a new report from the IIHS (the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), vehicles with taller and more upright front ends can create an increased risk to pedestrians.

  • The data from the IIHS report matches that of a joint investigation by the Detroit Free Press/USA Today first published in 2018.

  • For the new report, IIHS researchers analyzed 17,897 crashes involving a single passenger vehicle and a single pedestrian.

Pedestrian safety data in the United States is pretty alarming, and that feeling is renewed when looking at new data from the IIHS released today. According to the insurance industry safety group, U.S. pedestrian crash deaths have risen roughly 80 percent since 2009, and in 2021 alone, nearly 7400 walkers died after being struck by a vehicle.

a person in a cross walk
Michael Simari - Car and Driver

The new IIHS report states that vehicles with "especially tall front ends," namely those with a hood height larger than 40 inches, are most dangerous to pedestrians. The report also shows that vehicles with a hood height somewhere between 30 and 40 inches, where the leading edge of the car is a blunt profile (think boxy SUV), also increase risk to pedestrians.

"Some of today's vehicles are pretty intimidating when you're passing in front of them in a crosswalk,” IIHS president David Harkey said. "These results tell us our instincts are correct: More aggressive-looking vehicles can indeed do more harm." The report notes that the average passenger vehicle in the U.S. is four inches wider, 10 inches longer, eight inches taller, and 1000 pounds heavier than its counterparts of 30 years ago. It also points out that hoods of many large pickups are just about at eye level for many adults.

iihs tall vehicle comparison chart
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Researchers Looked at 17,897 Crashes

To examine the connection between fatality risk and vehicle size and shape, researchers for the IIHS looked at 17,897 crashes involving one passenger vehicle and one pedestrian. The researchers then used Vehicle Identification Numbers to identify the cars involved, and calculated the front-end measurements for 2958 unique vehicle models from photographs. To limit outside factors, the IIHS excluded vehicles with pedestrian automated emergency braking systems and controlled for other factors that could affect the likelihood of a fatality, such as the speed limit and age and sex of the struck pedestrian.

According to the report, for medium-height vehicles with a front end between 30 and 40 inches off the ground, a sloped shape provided more safety for pedestrians than a blunt hood. Compared with low and sloped vehicles, medium-height vehicles with blunt fronts were 26 percent more likely to cause pedestrian fatalities in a crash. In contrast, medium-height vehicles with a sloped front posed a similar risk to pedestrians as low vehicles with either blunt or sloped fronts.

The study's lead author, IIHS senior research transportation engineer Wen Hu, commented that manufacturers could make design changes that would minimize pedestrian safety concerns. "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. There's no functional benefit to these massive, blocky fronts." And IIHS president Harkey said the organization would like automakers to "consider these findings and take a hard look at the height and shape of their SUVs and pickups."

You Might Also Like