The vehicles on the road today are much different than those of 20 years ago. SUVs and pickups – often referred to as light trucks – are far more popular, with sales of these types of models growing exponentially of late. In addition, manufacturers are making these light trucks larger and heavier.

If you think this sounds like concerning news for the nation’s cyclists, you are correct. And there is research to prove it.

Cyclist collisions are trending the wrong way

Each year, 47,000 cyclists in the U.S. are hit by a car. More troubling is the fact that the cyclist fatality rate, after falling through the 1990s and early 2000s, has shot up, reaching a nearly 30-year peak. This death rate can’t be explained solely by population change.

What’s behind it? According to one major news investigation, these light trucks are the “constant.” A trademark design feature of light trucks is likely partly to blame.

Why light trucks are so dangerous

The common design of a light truck’s front end makes it particularly dangerous in a collision with a cyclist. The grille area is often flat, and quite tall when compared to something like a sedan. This means a light truck is more likely to strike particularly vulnerable parts of a cyclist’s body, such as:

  • The pelvis area
  • The abdomen and stomach
  • The chest and ribs
  • Potentially the neck and head

One study found torso injuries were the second-most common cause of death in crashes involving vulnerable road users, such as cyclists, behind only head injuries. And torso injuries are 98% more likely to happen when a light truck is involved in such a collision.

A surgeon at a trauma center even compared cyclist crash injuries to “multiple gunshot wounds,” with severe damage to many areas of the body.

When someone is driving a vehicle that is clearly more dangerous to others, they should act in the most responsible manner possible. Instead, the opposite frequently occurs. Speeding, aggressive driving, inattentiveness, intoxication and other negligent behaviors are all too commonplace.

It is other road users, such as cyclists, who then end up paying a terrible price.