By Ben Crowther
Deadly forward blind zones have long plagued SUVs and trucks and one Senator wants to know what the government is going to do about it.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) writes he’s “extremely troubled” by the forward blind zones of SUVs that limit drivers from seeing pedestrians, especially children. His letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls for the agency to develop a plan that deals with dangerous forward blind spots.
Deaths Steadily on Rise
We applaud the Senator for drawing attention to the dangers pedestrians face from larger and larger trucks and SUVs. For over a decade, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed on our streets has steadily risen every year and it’s hardly a secret that the size of today’s cars, SUVs, and trucks fuel this epidemic. NHTSA acknowledges that SUVs and pickup trucks when they hit a pedestrian are two to three times more likely to kill that person than a passenger car. And the blind spots of SUVs and pickup trucks make their drivers three to four times more likely to hit a pedestrian when turning.
The Senator offers front cameras and detection technologies as one possible solution to blind zones caused by vehicle size. This solution certainly mitigates the danger, but the federal government has additional tools to make vehicles even safer for those outside of them.
How NHTSA Has The Power To Protect Those Outside The Vehicle
NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) set the bar for protecting vehicle occupants. It also has the power to establish vehicle designs that protect the lives of people outside cars. Designs like smaller and safer hoods and bumpers that reduce the impact of being struck and direct visibility requirements that allow drivers to see people outside of vehicles, without having to monitor a separate screen.
Senator Blumenthal is correct that safety shouldn’t be a choice feature. This applies not only to car technology but also to vehicle design. An updated FMVSS that deals with known design flaws of excessive vehicle size and poor visibility from the driver’s seat can address two of the primary causes behind a 40-year high in pedestrian deaths.
Earlier this year, America Walks urged NHTSA to take action to make vehicles safer, helping generate over 16,000 comments to proposed federal rulemaking. We are pleased to see political leaders keeping the pressure on to make our streets safer.