Car companies who produce and supply super-sized SUVs and utes to the US are eyeing Australia as a potential market, despite their growing risk to vulnerable road users.
High, wide and often crude, these suburban machines are now claimed to be responsible for the rising proportion of pedestrian casualties. Such deaths have increased 90 per cent in the US in the last 10 years.
SUVs are a paradox: while many people buy them to feel safer, they are statistically less safe than regular-sized cars.
A person is 11% more likely to die in a crash inside an SUV than a regular car. Studies show they lull drivers into a false sense of security, encouraging them to take greater risks. Their height makes them twice as likely to roll in crashes and twice as likely to kill pedestrians or people who ride by inflicting greater upper body and head injuries.
When a small vehicles hits a pedestrian or person on a bike, most damage is to the lower limbs.
Originally modelled from trucks, SUVs are often excluded from safety standards applied to passenger vehicles (such as bonnet height.) increasing the risk of blind spots and vision issues.
Already, you may have noticed some mega utes on our roads which are modified to be even taller, with the front of the vehicle up to 160cm above the ground.
And that’s not all. The bigger they get the heavier they get and the more deadly they get. The latest Ford Excursion (thankfully not in Australia yet) tips the scale at 3200kg: At 100km/h that is enough kinetic energy to wreck a house.
The extreme toll that the overlarge, overpowered vehicles has taken on pedestrians has prompted growing calls for their removal from city streets in the US.
Similarly in Germany, following the high-profile deaths of children, there have been protests to see the vehicles banned completely from cities, or imposed with a size limit.
Some of these vehicles such as the Dodge Ram pictured above are already appearing on Australian roads and other brands are said to be on the way.
So they’ll be on a street near you real soon.
And watch your head: another feature of these utes is extendable mirrors that are just at the right height to give a bike rider a dangerous clip over the ear.