Taller, larger hoods are putting pedestrians' lives at risk.
The perceived safety of driving a tall SUV like a Cadillac Escalade or Chevrolet Tahoe is understandable. But despite being taller and heavier than a sedan, not all SUVs are equally safe in every crash-test scenario. More worryingly, SUVs pose a greater risk to pedestrians because of their tall bodies and massive blind spots. Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) from earlier this year determined that SUVs are a bigger hazard for pedestrians when cornering, and now a prominent US Senator has questioned safety authorities in the country after a shocking investigation by a News4 I-Team in Virginia demonstrated just how bad modern SUV blind-spot zones are.
Using a typical SUV as a test vehicle, the team's demonstration saw them put a mom by the name of Christy Weeden behind the wheel of the SUV. One by one, the team placed children in front of the secured SUV to see how many it would take before Weeden saw one of them. It took ten children seated in a row before Weeden saw one of them, and the team measured a massive front blind zone of 16 feet.
"I was blown away by how children can be at real imminent risk," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal who sits on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. "It was really frightening to see those kids lined up for that length in front of the car. Any car manufacturer seeing that kind of demonstration ought to be appalled and scared because it could be their kids in front of the car, could be anyone."
The United States Senator is now demanding answers from the National Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). The latest NHTSA data shows that there were 366 deaths and 15,000 injuries from forward-moving vehicles. One mother, Jackie Foschi, was interviewed by the news team and shared her tragic story after her four-year-old son was run over and succumbed to his injuries by the family's large SUV in 2019.
Blumenthal wants written answers from the NHTSA by August 26 explaining, among others, how many frontover incidents have occurred since 2015, what steps (if any) the agency has taken to address frontover collisions, and when the NHTSA will make its non-traffic surveillance data through 2020 publicly available.
Blumenthal wants more visibility and better technology installed on vehicles as standard. At the moment, rearview cameras are mandatory in the US but frontview cameras are not. The NHTSA said it had received Blumenthal's letter and was looking forward to reviewing it.