For anyone that enjoys getting out and taking a walk, the numbers should be worrying. Pedestrian deaths are up 46% in the U.S. since 2009, according to a USA Today and Detroit Free Press investigation. That is a staggering increase.

The report dug into the reasons for this trend and found something surprising. The data suggests “higher-profile, blunt-nosed” SUVs are the common thread, with these types of vehicles accounting for the growing number of pedestrian fatalities.

What the research says about pedestrian crashes

Here is what we know. According to an IIHS study, not only has the number of crashes involving pedestrians increased, but these wrecks have become deadlier. They are also more and more likely to involve SUVs or vehicles with high horsepower.

Take this statistic, for example. Fatal crashes involving a single SUV (no other vehicles) have risen more than 81%. That increase outpaces every other type of vehicle on the road.

The danger of large SUVs isn’t even a secret. As the USA Today and Free Press investigation points out, a federal transportation safety paper from 2015 said pedestrians are two to three times more likely to die when struck by an SUV or pickup truck when compared to a passenger car. That paper used data from 12 independent studies to make that conclusion.

Vehicle design is a significant factor

Why are large passenger vehicles killing pedestrians more frequently? Part of it is simply the vehicles are quite popular, but that does not tell the whole story. The design of these SUVs is inherently dangerous.

The signature profile – with its prominent grille and tall, flat front end – means a pedestrian is more likely to be struck in the head or chest on initial impact. Compared to a smaller vehicle with a sloped hood, this increases the odds the victim will go under the SUV and be run over. In addition, the enhanced power of newer SUV models is also a factor. The faster a vehicle is going, the more likely it is to kill a pedestrian in a crash.

The evidence is clear: For those on foot, large vehicles such as SUVs are clearly more dangerous. This means their drivers have an even greater responsibility to behave as safely as possible. If they choose to drive distracted or after drinking, their negligence puts your life at great risk.