Vehicles in America are novelty oversized, like a universal TV remote from a store in the weird corner of the mall. We’ve known this for years, and the problem has only kept getting worse. Now, though, new data suggests — once again — that the bigger cars are deadlier.
This time, that data comes from an analysis in the Economics of Transportation, which cross-references crash data in the U.S. with publicly available information on the size of cars over the years. The result? For every four inches that a car’s hood grows, the vehicle becomes 22 per cent deadlier to pedestrians.
The review was performed by Justin Tyndall, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Hawai’i. Tyndall saw prior studies that correlated vehicle type with size, but wanted to get more into the weeds on exactly what dimensions correlated with pedestrian deaths.
By going through data in granular detail, Tyndall was able to rule out a commonly attributed factor in crashes: Vehicle weight. It turns out, weight doesn’t mean much once you start to get into front-end height as a measurement:
Conditional on multiple measures of vehicle size, front-end height displays the most significant effect.
The shift towards electric vehicles is projected to make vehicles heavier still, as the batteries needed to power the vehicles add significant weight (Shaffer et al., 2021). If a strong relationship between pedestrian fatalities and vehicle weight exists, the number of fatalities attributable to vehicle size will likely continue to rise in the coming years. However, I find that once front-end height is controlled for, the impact of vehicle weight is small, suggesting the regulation of body design may be more important for pedestrian safety than the regulation of vehicle weight per se.
So, next time you’re shopping for a vehicle, remember: The taller the front end, the more likely it is to hurt someone else. With that in mind, maybe opt for the hatchback over the Excursion next time.
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