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Study Finds SUVs Cause 55% More Severe Injuries to Cyclists

Black SUV speeding down a road in downtown Chicago.

Taking a Closer Look at the Key Role of Larger Vehicles in Bicycle Accidents.

American roads are getting less safe for cyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable road users, and the increasing popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) is a key reason why. As we've covered previously, larger vehicles like SUVs, pickup trucks, and minivans are more likely to hit vulnerable road users because of their bigger blind spots. We also know that larger vehicles tend to cause more serious injuries when bicycle accidents do occur — but a new study reveals just how much more severe and life-altering those injuries are.

Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) took a close look at data on over 70 crashes involving a cyclist and a car or SUV. The findings were striking: cyclists who were hit by SUVs suffered injuries that were 55 percent worse than those who were hit by cars, and head injuries in particular were 63 percent worse.

The Key Factor is the SUV's Higher Front Profile

The study found SUVs are more dangerous to cyclists and other vulnerable road users because of the size and shape of their front end. Compared to a car, an SUV is more likely to hit a cyclist close to their center of gravity, which means they're more likely — according to the study, about twice as likely — to knock you off your bike entirely. The consequence is a higher rate of ground-impact injuries, which are often more severe than injuries from hitting the vehicle itself.

Another disturbing finding: SUVs are far more likely to actually run cyclists over and cause potentially deadly injuries. A cyclist who is knocked off their bike by a sedan is almost always going to be pushed up and over the vehicle's roof, whereas someone hit by an SUV is more likely to be crushed under the vehicle itself. Again, it's the height and higher center of gravity of the SUV that makes the difference.

(It's worth noting that the study did not look at pickup trucks because there was insufficient data; however, these concerns about the higher front profile may be applicable to trucks as well as SUVs.)

Interestingly, the researchers found that the weight of an SUV is not a significant factor in injury severity in bicycle and pedestrian collisions (although it is an important factor in vehicle-on-vehicle collisions) because cars in general are so much heavier than human bodies to begin with. The key factors are the shape and design of the vehicle.

After a Bicycle Accident in Chicago, Count On Keating

These findings about SUVs underscore the responsibility motorists have to share the road with cyclists. Those who choose to drive larger vehicles need to be even more cautious because the consequences of a collision with a vulnerable road user can be so deadly. Without the protection of an enclosed vehicle, a cyclist can sustain severe, life-altering injuries in a crash, even at low speeds.

If you've been injured in a bicycle accident caused by an SUV or any other motor vehicle, our dedicated bicycle accident attorneys are prepared to help. Contact us today for a free consultation with Keating Law Offices, P.C.

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