While bicycle trips are on the rise in Quebec, a new American study has just reminded us that the choice of vehicle motorists make has measurable consequences on the safety of people who are outside the vehicle, including people traveling by bicycle. According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in the United States, people on bicycles hit by SUV or pickup truck drivers have 55% more serious injuries than those of cyclists who have been hit by car drivers. These larger vehicles also cause 63% more severe head injuries than those caused by a car.
Magali Bebronne, program director and spokesperson for Vélo Québec, notes that one of the problems with SUVs and pickup trucks is the famous “A-pillar”, the part that supports the windshield on the driver’s side, and which creates a significant blind spot. “On these vehicles, the A-pillars are much bigger, they also contain the airbags. So we have more and more collisions in left turns, because pedestrians or cyclists were never seen: they were hidden by these massive pillars. The hoods of SUVs and trucks are also much higher than that of a car. In the event of a collision, they reach people in the vital organs rather than in the legs, increasing the severity of injuries and the risk of death.
This is the number of people traveling by bicycle in the United States who are killed each year in a collision with the driver of a motor vehicle, while more than 130,000 others are injured. Also, 7500 people traveling on foot are killed per year, which represents approximately 20 deaths per day. This is the highest level in 40 years. In Quebec, 36 pedestrians were killed in 2022, or one person every 10 days, and thousands were injured, a 10-year high. Last year, seven cyclists were killed in Quebec, while a hundred were seriously injured after a collision with a motor vehicle.
This trend of “vehicle obesity” is concerning, and should be controlled by the government, believes Ms. Bebronne. “For example, the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) is supposed to look at risk factors and ask more of those who pose the greatest risks. Right now, that’s not accounted for, and it’s small car drivers who are paying for the ever-increasing damage from SUV and light truck drivers. »
Registration fees should be modulated according to the size of the vehicles to take this reality into account, she argues. “Those who opt for more dangerous vehicles should be aware of these impacts. Large-displacement vehicles have seen a slight increase in registration fees, but the measure is so insufficient that even Ford F-150 pickup trucks will not be subject to this surcharge. It is really time to go further. We talk a lot about eco-taxation, about pricing behavior that is harmful to the environment, but we do not seem ready to do that in terms of safety in Quebec. »
At the SAAQ, it is indicated that it has set up a working committee to analyze accidents involving pedestrians with fatalities and serious injuries involving different types of vehicles. “The work is still in progress. It is planned as part of this work to focus more on the type of vehicle involved, notes Geneviève Côté, spokesperson for the SAAQ. As for insurance contributions, the exercise to determine the 2025-2027 insurance contributions will begin soon. Then will follow the filing of the actuarial expertise and the public information document in early 2024.