Pickups and SUVs: Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Dec 22, 2020 | Driving Safety

Faced with a wide choice of types of vehicles, American car buyers are turning increasingly to the biggest, bulkiest forms of personal transport they can find. Recently Bloomberg reported that more than two-thirds of all new automobile purchases in the U.S. are now “light trucks,” a category that includes SUVs, pickups and minivans. That’s a lot of big wheels.

Whatever the larger rides might do for their owners’ sense of well-being, they’ve also been linked to an increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths over the last decade. Pedestrian fatalities last year were up 45% compared to those of a decade ago, while cyclist deaths rose 38%. The Governors’ Highway Safety Association attributes at least part of the surge to the growing presence of jumbo SUVs on congested city streets; pickup and SUV accidents typically involve greater weight, more deadly impact force, and more likelihood of blind spots because of the vehicles’ greater height.

America’s love affair with super-sized vehicles isn’t easy to explain. Despite what’s portrayed in the commercials for mega-tough, extra-hulky trucks, most pickup buyers aren’t looking to haul bales of hay or heavy construction materials. The vast majority of them almost never use the truckbed or tow anything, content to rely on one of the least fuel-efficient types of vehicles for commuting and tooling about town. Colorado residents can certainly argue that they need their SUVs for winter mountain driving, but that doesn’t account for the popularity of the largest models, such as the Nissan Armada, Toyota Sequoia, and Lincoln Navigator, in urban settings that are far from the wilderness.

While bigger vehicles aren’t the only factor in the pedestrian accident increase — distracted driving certainly plays a role, too — they do pose problems for officials in cities, such as Denver, that are seeking to implement a Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths. The Bloomberg report suggests a number of measures that could help discourage the use of pickups and SUVs in busy urban zones, such as charging more for parking heavier vehicles and banning “bull bars,” an after-market accessory that can increase the likelihood of injury or death in certain types of accidents.

But most top-down restrictions would take years to implement and face consumer opposition. It might take a more basic campaign appealing to car buyers’ own common sense, urging them to consider whether, when it comes to navigating the heart of their city, bigger really isn’t better.


Over the past thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Aurora, Greenwood Village, Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. We are proud of our approach; we commit attorneys to cases, not paralegals. If you’ve been injured in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please call the attorneys at FD Azar day or night at 720-372-2824 or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.