Posted on March 10th, 2023

Is Your Car Making Other Road Users Unsafe?

A lot goes in to selecting the perfect vehicle for you and your family. You might consider size, its ability to navigate different terrains or weather conditions, and other features that make it a cut above the rest, such as color, shape or design. But have you ever considered the role your new vehicle will play in the safety of those around you? Let’s dive in.

As a driver or occupant of a vehicle, you interact directly and repeatedly with it. You adjust the mirrors and the seats, plug your destination into the GPS and start the engine. However, your vehicle also interacts with other roadway users – drivers in other vehicles, yes, but also people walking, biking, and taking other modes of transportation. It is important that as a driver you are aware of the role you and your vehicle play in contributing to the safety of these other community members.

This is a crucial topic because we are seeing a troubling trend in the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities across the U.S. Fatalities across modes are on the rise, with an estimated 42,915 people losing their lives in 2021, according to NHTSA. This represents a 16-year high and a 10% increase from 2020, the biggest jump in reporting history. People walking and biking are seeing even higher rates. Vehicle size and technology, however, can impact these numbers and be leveraged to improve safety and start saving lives.

Two trends are happening at the same time – vehicles are increasing in size and larger vehicles (such as SUVs) are increasing in popularity. Often, this can mean increased protection for those inside the vehicle. However, for those outside the vehicle, it means an increasingly unsafe environment. A vehicle’s size affects its force of impact in a crash and the line of sight of the driver, all of which contribute to the recent rise in pedestrian fatalities. Research consistently shows that the cars we drive send a clear message as to just whose lives we are valuing on our roads.

The good news is that while we have seen an increase in vehicle size, we have also seen an increase in technology that can help improve safety for non-occupants. Automatic Emergency Braking and other pedestrian detection systems can help drivers avoid deadly collisions. In addition to these technologies becoming increasingly available by manufacturers, the government is also recognizing the role they can play in saving lives as indicated by the proposed revisions to the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). 

You might not be in the market for a new car any time soon, but it’s important to remember that whenever you are in a vehicle on the road, you are responsible for more than just the safety of you and your passengers. We must make commitment as community members to create safe environments for all roadway users.