SUVs Certainly a Pronounced Concern for NYC Pedestrians

New York City pedestrians are likely some of the most aware and traffic-savvy walkers in the world. The metro area is a huge corridor of fast-paced complexity, with walker-linked challenges literally existing at every turn in the road.

In a sense, city pedestrians coexist with a huge amount of varied traffic in a kind of Darwinian world. Walkers who are easily distracted or who aren't on the close lookout constantly for developing scenarios risk personal and even catastrophic harm.

Truly, the surrounding mix of traffic is a swirling and mixed bag. There are of course legions of passenger cars to deal with. They are added to by city and private buses, small and large commercial vehicles and motorcycles.

And many New Yorkers negotiating areas of the metro on foot have likely noticed this growing phenomenon as well, namely, a constant increase in SUVs traversing the city.

In fact, that type of vehicle - more blunt-edged, heavier and higher off the ground than a car - is making historical inroads on American streets and highways. A recent article underscoring the comparative dangers posed by SUVs for pedestrians across the country reports that "pickups and SUVs now account for 60 percent of new vehicle sales."

That is relevant from a safety standpoint for this reason: Evidence indicates that the steady increase of SUVs is a telling barometer of spiking pedestrian deaths nationally. The design profile of such vehicles, marked most prominently by a high front end, results in a high number of pedestrian-linked accidents in which walkers suffer direct head and/or chest injuries. Compared with lower-body injuries that are more prevalent in car/walker collisions, higher-impact strikes are far deadlier.

Safety regulators can't stop the tide of surging SUV sales, of course. What they can do, though, is strongly recommend design changes, on-board tech enhancements like low-speed emergency braking, and vehicle safety ratings that include just how friendly - or flatly dangerous - a particular SUV is for pedestrians. They are in fact aggressively promoting all those things.