It’s often hard to ride a bike safely as an adult when roads must be shared with automobiles. According to the NHTSA, the 2nd leading related factor for fatalities in bike/car crashes (in the USA) is “Not visible”. It makes sense that visibility is a leading factor. I don’t think I view the data as a whole as completely reliable, since I’d assume that in most of these cases the victim wasn’t around to tell their side of the story.
Kids are less visible on bikes than adults and cars are getting bigger
As a kid, it’s even more difficult to be visible. Children can ride erratically. They are shorter, their bikes are shorter, and thus they are less visible to drivers. The opposite is true for automobiles. Vehicles are getting larger, which creates a bigger “blind zone” in front of the vehicle which can make children even less visible.
Real world tests via WTHR
This incredible video from WTHR is definitely worth a watch. Some drivers like sitting up high, but most parents have no idea that their vehicle has a giant blind spot in front.
Kidsandcars.org calls these "Frontovers" and is working to increase awareness about these types of accidents. They sadly note, "Stories about kids and cars have a tendency to end badly."
Giant blind zones
In the news clip, the reporters found that 9 kids could sit in front of a mom's Chevy Tahoe before she could see a kid. A different mom in a Cadillac Escalade couldn't see any kids until the 13th child sat in front of her. The blind zone in front of her vehicle was 15 feet long. Newer models are even larger.
20 years of SUV growth: my ancient CR-V (with incredible visibility) vs. this 2021 Cadillac bruiser pic.twitter.com/AAWDiKviP4
— Paul Geimer (@paul_geimer) October 13, 2020
Possible front blind zone solutions
Some are pushing for front facing cameras or a front blind spot alert to reduce this risk, but hopefully smaller vehicles that are lower to the ground are also considered. Most vehicles on the road now don't have front facing cameras, and many that do aren't used because drivers are unaware of the feature. Blind spot assist systems exist, but they appear to be mostly for side blind spots.
Based on this and my own experience riding around with my child, I think that one key way to enhance visibility is to make them appear visually taller in order to get out of the front blind zone of taller automobiles.
3 thoughts on “Are cars and trucks too tall? A quick note on rider visibility”
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