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The most dangerous characteristics of light trucks

SUVs and pickup trucks are more popular than ever before. Every year, sales figures for these types of vehicles seem to rise, faster and faster. Concern over the dangers they pose to others on the road is also increasing.

Recent research, studies and reports suggest these larger vehicles are leading to more severe injuries and a higher number of fatalities when involved in a crash, particularly with pedestrians and cyclists. There are two key reasons for this: a troubling blind spot and a dangerous front-end shape.

Just how big is the front blind spot?

The taller and flatter a vehicle’s front-end, the larger the front blind spot. Any object, animal or person positioned close to the grille will be invisible to the driver. How large is this blind spot, exactly?

One news report measured this by lining up seated children in front of two popular light trucks, the Chevy Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade. The reporters then counted how many kids it took until someone behind the wheel could finally see them.

The Tahoe driver could not see the first eight children positioned directly in front of their car. For the Escalade driver, the first dozen kids were completely out of sight.

“Oh my gosh, it’s absolutely terrifying,” the Tahoe operator told the station.

A dangerous front-end shape

The shape of an SUV’s or pickup truck’s front-end is not just dangerous for children. Because the grille area tends to be tall and flat (compared to the shorter, sloped hood of many passenger cars), these light trucks are often far more deadly.

Consider someone who is 5-foot-9, the average height of an American male. As this story explains, a regular car would strike them in the legs and likely sweep them on to the hood. A midsize SUV, meanwhile, would strike that person in the pelvis, potentially damaging the iliac arteries. And a larger light truck would hit between the lower torso and ribs, resulting in a direct impact to delicate vital organs.

For someone shorter – say 5-foot-4, the average height of a female in America – the front of a light truck would slam into their chest and neck.

There is no doubt that all traffic crashes are dangerous. But the characteristics of light trucks mean a driver should remain extra vigilant. One neglectful choice – looking at the GPS, sending a text, driving aggressively – can easily result in tragedy.