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Sports utility vehicles and older pedestrians: a damaging collision
  1. C Simms,
  2. D O’Neill
  1. Trinity Centre for Bioengineering and Medical Gerontology, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland;

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    Two independent trends in the developed world are likely to reverse some of the hard won improvements that have been made in road safety. One is the ageing of the population; the other the increase in the use of sports utility vehicles (SUVs, high performance four wheel drive cars capable of off-road driving). The first trend produces a growing number of vulnerable road users; the second produces a likelihood of more severe injuries when vehicles and pedestrians collide. Public health professionals will need to work with transportation and road safety agencies to avoid the inevitable consequences of more vulnerable road users and more lethal vehicles.

    Among road users, pedestrians are already a group at high risk, and elderly pedestrians are particularly at risk. People over 60 are more than four times as likely to die if injured by a car than younger people1: in a pattern repeated around the developed world, older people in Ireland account for 30% of pedestrian deaths but only 11% of the population.2 The World Health Organization has recognised protection of older pedestrians as a key safety measure for this age group.3 Pedestrian protection is an even …

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    • Competing interests: none declared.

    • This is an edited version of an article which first appeared in the BMJ, 8 October 2005 (

      ) .