Deadly Hit-and-Run in Archer Heights Involved a White, Boxy Pick-Up Truck

There was another fatal hit-and-run on Friday afternoon. ABC 7 News reports that Jiekun Xu was killed when a white pickup truck struck her while she crossed the street at Pulaski and 44th. According to Alderperson Jeylú Gutiérrez, this particular stretch of Pulaski – notably, between 42nd and 47th – is one of the more dangerous areas in the city for car accidents.

Given how many shopping plazas there are on those intersections, we’re not surprised. Here are a Google Earth screenshots of 44th and Pulaski:

Hit and Run Accident Chicago

As you may know, we have been fighting the good fight when it comes to hit-and-run accidents in Chicago, because the numbers are overwhelming. This one is particularly heartbreaking, because Jiekun Xu had just applied to become a U.S. citizen after waiting the mandatory five years. She had plans and hope for the future, and it’s really hard to see that end so needlessly.

If there is any silver lining at all, it’s that Chicago police released a photo of the truck based on surveillance video. It’s a big, boxy, white pickup – a Ford F-150 or a RAM 1500, CPD thinks. And that is actually what we want to talk about today: how larger trucks and SUVs are killing people, and no one seems inclined to do anything about it.

What the data shows us about deadly pickup trucks

An F150 is between 75.2 to 77.6 inches tall, with a ground clearance of about 8-9 inches. A RAM 1500 series is about 79” tall. This is a picture of the truck that hit Jiekun Xu:

Look at the size of the front of that truck. According to Consumer Reports, “the hood height of passenger trucks has increased by an average of at least 11 percent since 2000 and… new pickups grew 24 percent heavier on average from 2000 to 2018.”

Go ahead and search the phrase “pickups are killing people.” You’ll see pages and pages of articles from news sources and online magazines, but also studies done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that speak directly to this issue. From CNN:

Researchers at the [IIHS] looked at records of almost 18,000 incidents in which vehicles struck pedestrians. They found that vehicles with grille areas that were 40 inches tall or higher are 45% more likely to kill a pedestrian they might hit….

Even when the hood isn’t that high, a boxy front-end — with a grille that’s nearly vertical and a hood that goes almost straight out from the windshield — is more likely to cause death or serious injury to a pedestrian. In general, vehicles with box-shaped front ends, even when they’re only medium height, are roughly 26% more likely to kill a pedestrian, according to the IIHS.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its own data, too. The League of American Bicyclists analyzed that data and found that between 2007 and 2021, the F-150 and the RAM trucks were the striking vehicles in 402 and 276 fatal bicycle accidents, respectively. They also accounted for 2,394 (F-150) and 1,686 (RAM 1500) pedestrian deaths.

The F-150 is, based purely on the data, the deadliest pickup truck on our streets. The F Series is also the best-selling pickup truck, and has been for 42 years.

Why are these larger pickup trucks so dangerous?

It all comes back to that grille height and shape. The height of the trucks, plus the squared-off shape of the trucks, affects how and where the truck hits the body.

Picture the hood of a standard sedan:

Deadly Hit-and-Run in Archer Hights Involved a White, Boxy Pick-Up Truck

See that slope? It’s more than aesthetics: it affects the aerodynamics of a vehicle. But it has a different benefit in the event of a collision with a pedestrian or a cyclist. When a sedan hits someone, it hits at the legs, and it typically pushes the victim up and over the hood. This can be deadly, of course, but it’s actually a less dangerous scenario; the bodies slow down as they slide, and that decrease in speed may be enough to save a life.

It’s different with a blocky truck or SUV. Cyclists and pedestrians who are hit by these larger vehicles get hit in the torso or pelvis, and the damage is catastrophic:

Instead of sliding onto the hood when hit by a truck, the rider’s pelvis and torso rotate with a twisting, tearing motion. With a squared-off front end, Hu says, “it’s basically the person wrapping around the vehicle.”*

Injury severity also relies greatly on what part of the vehicle the rider hits next: the center of the hood or windshield absorb far more force than a reinforced part like an A-pillar. But in part because of their size, trucks and SUVs tend to feature stiffer hood assemblies than cars, so even landing on the hood may cause more damage than an identical impact against a car.

Finally, in nearly all crashes with cars or light trucks, there’s a secondary impact as the victim is thrown to the ground, usually after sliding onto the hood or windshield. But because of the tall, square front ends on SUVs and trucks, a rider is more likely to be thrown forward onto the ground, where they could be run over.

*Hu is Jingwen Hu, “an associate research professor in the biosciences group of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute and a specialist in crash-injury biomechanics.”

On top of this, larger trucks have larger blind spots, which means their drivers are more likely to miss a pedestrian or cyclist – especially a child. They’re also heavier, which means the force of that impact is greater AND it takes longer for them to stop if a driver jams on the breaks. The size may also increase the risk of a pedestrian or cyclist being literally run over (SUVs actually take the cake here), which means an increased risk of death, as well as an increased risk of:

So – what’s the lesson here?

That Americans love giant cars that prioritize features like heated steering wheels over the lives of pedestrians and cyclists? That without some kind of federal regulation, companies will continue to manufacturer massive vehicles with no regard for human life? That hit-and-runs involving children are probably going to increase because visibility is so poor?

All of these things?

We don’t know. What we do know is that a family is broken today because someone decided their needs were greater than those of their neighbors, and that makes us very sad indeed.

What also know is the law, and how victims of car accidents can hold negligent drivers accountable. It won’t bring your loved back, but it does ensure that justice is served. For more information, call or contact Gainsberg Injury and Accident Lawyers for a free consultation with a Chicago car accident lawyer.