Big Cars Can Come With Big Consequences

Big Cars Can Come With Big ConsequencesIt seems like every day, a new big vehicle is out for sale. Whether it’s a pickup truck or an SUV, these vehicles are all over the road, and while they may look impressive, the reality is that they are very dangerous to pedestrians. With new studies showing the severe injuries these tall-hooded vehicles can cause to folks walking across the street, the question of whether or not the height of hoods and cars should be regulated has come to light.

The facts about cars with big front ends

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reveals that vehicles with hood heights exceeding 40 inches, particularly trucks, SUVs, and vans, are about 45% more likely to cause pedestrian fatalities in crashes than vehicles with lower hood heights and a sloping profile. During a study, a troubling finding was discovered: “In general, vehicles taller than 35 inches were more dangerous to pedestrians than the shorter ones, mainly because they tended to cause more severe head injuries. Among vehicles taller than 35 inches, those with vertical front ends were more dangerous than those with sloped front ends. Torso and hip injuries from these vehicles were more frequent and severe.”

This research underscores the heightened danger posed by taller front ends, highlighting the need for safety measures. The study recommends redesigning vehicles to have lower front ends and angled grilles, reducing the risk of pedestrian fatalities. As pedestrian crash deaths have surged, many attribute the increase to the growing prevalence of larger vehicles like SUVs and pickups. It is obvious that addressing the design of these vehicles can play a crucial role in enhancing pedestrian safety and preventing fatalities.

Is anything being done to combat tall vehicles?

The Verge has written about the IIHS’s recent study on tall vehicles, and has pointed out that despite the glaring data revealing hazardous vehicle designs, the continued production of larger trucks and SUVs persists due to a lack of regulatory measures. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) traditionally assigns safety ratings by conducting crash tests that primarily assess risks to vehicle occupants, neglecting the potential danger to vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. While NHTSA has announced updates to its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to include advanced driver-assistance system features, it has yet to incorporate vehicle design, particularly size, in its evaluation—a gap that has sparked frustration among safety advocates. And understandably so.

Pedestrian accidents in Ohio

According to a Traffic Safety Bulletin released by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, in a five-year span between 2017 and 2022, Franklin County saw 2,824 pedestrian related crashes – the most crashes seen from every county in the state.

The bulletin states that “since 2017, 14,466 pedestrian-related traffic crashes have occurred on Ohio roadways. These crashes included 843 fatal crashes that resulted in the deaths of 847 pedestrians (and 10 others). This represents 13% of all fatalities that occurred during this time period. The 173 fatal pedestrian-related crashes in 2021 were the highest total during this time period.”

In 2021, the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) recorded that the United States saw 331,894 pedestrian crashes, with 7,388 fatalities.

Catastrophic injuries caused by pedestrian accidents

With these big vehicles comes big injuries to those that they hit. As stated earlier, large vehicles that crash into pedestrians tend to cause more head, torso, and hip injuries. These are not simple injuries, but ones that can change a person’s life forever if not end their life altogether. Let’s go over these catastrophic injuries.

Traumatic brain injury

When you hit your head, or your head is hit by a force, it can damage your brain. This type of injury is called a traumatic brain injury (TBI), and includes such injuries as concussions to internal hemorrhaging of the brain to a fractured skull where the bone has penetrated the scalp.

When a pedestrian is hit by a large vehicle, the head injuries can be severe. The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC) goes into depth about what makes severe TBIs different from mild TBIs, such as concussions:

“Severe TBI always includes a period of unconsciousness. During this time, the person will not be able to stay awake. He or she will not be able to interact with surroundings in a purposeful way, such as reaching for an object.”

Severe TBIs can lead to coma and vegetative states, and amnesia. Death is always a possibility when it comes to severe TBIs.

As far as recovery and treatment, MSKTC states that:

Some doctors consider certain severe TBIs to be beyond hope. However, this can’t be determined in the first few days after an injury. It may take weeks—or even months—for a doctor to determine how or if a person will recover over time. Many people (but not all with a disorder of consciousness related to a TBI) will eventually regain consciousness.

If consciousness is regained, the long-term effects of the injury may include difficulties with speech, understanding others, and balance. Further, the victim may experience headaches, dizziness, paralysis, confusion, memory loss, seizures, mood swings, and reduced language abilities.

Torso injuries

The injuries sustained by pedestrians to their torsos when hit by one of these larger vehicles can be life-threatening.

  • Hemothorax. Another injury caused by chest trauma, a hemothorax is when blood collects in the pleural cavity (the space between the chest wall and the lung). Treatment for a hemothorax includes inserting a chest tube between the ribs in order to remove excess blood and air, and this treatment can take several days. A hemothorax can lead to further complications such as a collapsed lung, infection, shock, and even death.
  • Pneumothorax. When there is oxygen around or outside the lung, this is called a pneumothorax. This is also known as a collapsed lung. A tension pneumothorax, as occurs with physical trauma, “is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. Air cannot escape the pleural space, so every time the person breathes in, more air enters the space, increasing the pressure on the lung and heart,” as per St Vincent’s Hospital Lung Health.
  • Chest wall injuries. Chest wall injuries include fractured ribs and broken sternum, and may require surgery to treat. The complications of the chest wall injuries can sometimes prove to be even more dangerous than the injury itself. AfterTrauma points out: “The chest wall moves continuously while we breathe. Following rib fractures, this movement can be painful and can stop us from taking deep breaths, coughing or laughing. This in turn prevents us from clearing our natural lung secretions. These secretions can build up and cause a chest infection.” Chest infections, while sometimes able to clear up on their own, can also prove to be life-threatening.

Hip injuries

Hip injuries can prove to be very disruptive to our everyday lives, and can change how we live. A hip fracture, while common in car accidents, is a serious injury. Most require surgery, possible hip replacement, physical therapy, and medications. Hip dislocations can lead to or are indicative of femoral head fractures. This type of hip injury is rare and serious, but when a car crashes into you, it shouldn’t be a surprise if you wind up with this injury.

Hip injuries will likely affect the way you walk and move throughout the rest of your life, though the severity of this long-lasting effect depends on your overall health and the severity of your injury. The Orthopedic Trauma Association states this about the long term outcome of hip injuries:

Femoral head fractures are severe injuries because they involve a joint that bears all your weight. Complications after femoral head fractures may include infections, blood clots, and persistent pain. Sometimes the bones do not heal correctly, or may not heal at all. Poor blood supply may cause the bone to not heal or erode away (avascular necrosis). You may also develop arthritis in your hip joint. These complications may require medications, hospital stays, another surgery, or a hip replacement. Complications can still occur even if you do everything "right," but following the instructions of your surgeon can help minimize the risk.

All of these injuries are serious, and a pedestrian is far more likely to suffer them when hit by cars with hoods that are over 35-40 inches tall. Being hit by a vehicle is already a life-threatening situation, but when the vehicle is as big as the ones we see on our roads these days, the chance of surviving the accident is far less optimistic. If the pedestrian does survive, their life will be forever changed, and they may require life-long medical treatment, as well as mobility devices.

If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident with one of these large vehicles, do not hesitate to reach out to an experienced and reliable attorney who is practiced in these types of accidents. At Soroka & Associates, our legal team will make you our priority. Your life has been drastically changed in a sudden moment of negligence by a driver in a large vehicle. You deserve to be compensated, not just for all the medical bills and costs of your treatment, but for your pain and suffering as well. If this is the case for you, reach out to us by calling us at our office in Columbus, or filling out our contact form. We proudly serve clients throughout Central Ohio.