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UPDATE 1-Senator wants U.S. agency to address risk of children being struck by SUVs

·2 min read

(Adds more details, background, no immediate NHTSA comment)

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) - A U.S. senator on Friday asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to address the risk of unseen children being struck by sport utility vehicles (SUVs.)

Senator Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the committee overseeing the NHTSA, said the rising size of SUVs is leading to larger frontal blind zones that make some children not visible above the hood. Congress previously mandated cameras to address rear backover crashes, and Blumenthal said "a similar, simple solution of front visibility standards could help prevent these deaths."

He wants the NHTSA to release incident data, saying it "is critical to understanding the true scope of frontovers and the steps that can be taken to prevent these tragic incidents."

Some automakers provide alerts or use cameras or radar to alert drivers starting vehicles to the presence of a pedestrian around the front of an SUV.

SUV sales have risen sharply in recent decades, while car sales have fallen. The Environmental Protection Agency said in 2020 that SUVs accounted for 52% of all U.S. auto production. Automakers are building more larger trucks and SUVs with higher hoods.

In 2019, 1,093 children riding in vehicles were killed in crashes, while 177 children who were pedestrians and 48 on bicycles were killed, according to NHTSA data.

The NHTSA did not immediately comment. A group representing major automakers also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the NHTSA said U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915, the highest number killed on American roads in a single year since 2005. The yearly increase was also the highest since the NHTSA began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler)