If you’re like most Americans, you probably have lots of friends who drive SUVs. You may even drive one yourself. There are lots of reasons to drive an SUV: a better view of the road, plenty of leg room and reduced chance of injury if you’re in a front- or read-end collision. However, for people on foot, SUVs look quite different. Recent studies have shown that the prevalence of SUVs directly corresponds to an increase in pedestrian fatalities throughout the country. If you’re out walking, you need to pay attention.

A Surge In Fatalities

Since 2009, the number of fatal accidents involving SUVs and pedestrians has gone up by 70 to 80 percent. Prior to 2009, the overall fatality rate had been steadily falling for decades. There are likely a number of factors in play when it comes to SUVs specifically.

For one, distracted driving is going up nationally, which raises the fatality rates among all vehicles.

A second factor is that SUVs have become more popular, so there are just more of them on the road, which would cause the fatality rate to go up.

The third factor involves how SUVs are designed.

SUV Design: Dangerous For Pedestrians

One of the things that makes SUVs appealing to drive — their raised chassis — is also something that makes them more dangerous for pedestrians. For sedans and other smaller cars, the top of the hood is about level with a person’s hip, which means that their legs would take the brunt of any impact.

However, the top of the hood in an SUV is level with a person’s midsection, which means that any resulting injuries can involve significant damage to major organs. Leg injuries are nothing to scoff at, of course, but they usually aren’t fatal. With an impact occurring at your stomach level, though, that can quickly change.

Staying Safe

If you’re on foot, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself.

  • Wear highly-visible clothing. This is especially important if you’re out at night. Not seeing pedestrians is one of the main reasons drivers hit them.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t walk with your phone out. If a driver is distracted, you want to be sure that you’re not.
  • Dont walk where you shouldnt. Try to stay in crosswalks and on designated walking paths. If you can’t, reconsider walking to your destination or else stay in the most well-lit section of road.
  • Dont walk while drinking. Many people assume that alcohol is only a factor behind the wheel, but it can be a factor on foot, too. Staying sober will guarantee that you have as much time to react as possible, should an unsafe situation crop up.

As is often the case, common sense is key when it comes to pedestrian safety. While you should keep your distance from SUVs, trucks, and other large vehicles as much as possible, you should also be proactive in ensuring you can be seen. Taken together, it’s the surest formula for being safe.