Jan 27, 2023 - News

Chicago transportation officials raise concerns about truck safety

Chart: Axios Visuals

Three of the Chicago area's 10 best-selling vehicles are pickup trucks — yet pedestrian and road safety advocates say today's massive trucks are a hazard, given their size, weight, and driver blind spots.

  • In a new special project, Axios' Will Chase, Jared Whalen and Joann Muller looked back over the past 50 years to examine the societal and lifestyle changes behind pickups' ever-increasing size.

Why it matters: "Not only do taller vehicles pose line-of-sight and visibility issues, they are more likely to cause fatal and serious injuries by striking a person closer to their vital organs," Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Erica Schroeder tells Axios.

  • "Decades of innovation have made cars safer for people inside vehicles, but the same cannot be said for people outside vehicles."

State of play: Last year, CDOT commissioner Gia Biagi sent a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urging officials to update criteria so cars and trucks can't get 5-star safety ratings unless they're also safe for pedestrians.

The backstory: In the 1980s, about half of U.S. pickup trucks were categorized as small or midsize. But by the 2010s, small pickups had nearly vanished as Americans increasingly bought into the big truck lifestyle.

  • As pickups transitioned from workhorses to lifestyle vehicles, their design shifted accordingly: Cabs expanded to accommodate more passengers, while beds shrank.
Graphic of sizes of trucks
Graphic: Will Chase/Axios

One result of supersized trucks: greater risks to pedestrians and others, because drivers sit much higher, creating a blind spot where small children or wheelchair users are hidden from view.

Graphic showing how much trucks have grown over the years.
   Graphic: Rahul Mukherjee/Axios

See the project


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