RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With the arrival of spring, more people are hitting the streets on their bikes, which also means more accidents. 

A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says bike accidents involving SUVs are more serious than those involving standard-sized cars.

The difference between an SUV and a car can best be seen when they are parked side by side. The front end of a standard automobile sits lower than the front end of an SUV. 

(Steve Sbraccia/CBS 17)

When Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia measured a standard car’s front end, he found it sits about 3 feet off the ground.  

By comparison, an SUV’s front end sits about a foot higher. He found it stands just under 4 feet tall.

When you compare the design of the front ends, you’ll also see a difference. 

Unlike a sedan-type automobile, the SUV’s front end tends to be a bit flatter and that doesn’t bode well for bike riders. 

“Instead of rolling the bicyclist over the top, they throw them forward onto the ground where of course, they could then be run over by the decelerating vehicle,” said Sam Monfort who authored the study for the IIHS.  

Because those crashes put the victim under the SUV, the IIHS says those crashes tend to be more lethal. 

It drew that conclusion after looking at 71 crashes in Michigan that occurred in urban areas.

Sbraccia wanted to know if those were high-speed crashes or collisions at 35 or 40 miles an hour. 

It’s a mix of both,” said Monfort. “Naturally, the higher-speed crashes are going to be more dangerous across the board than the lower-speed ones,” he said. “The differences between vehicle types tended to emerge more for faster crashes.” 

In North Carolina, there were 22 fatal bike/vehicle accidents in 2021, according to the NCDOT which hasn’t compiled figures for 2022 yet. 

One possible solution to bike/SUV accidents is adapting auto braking systems to include a moving cyclist.   

“We are testing auto brake systems for pedestrians at the moment, but we may expand that testing to include bicycle crash scenarios,” said Monfort. 

Vehicle design components are only one part of the solution.  

A lot of research has shown that simply lowering speed limits in urban centers can reduce crash severity. If cars and SUVs are traveling slower before striking bicyclists, they will do less damage.  

Changes in road infrastructure will also help.  

“Protected bike lanes have been shown to reduce crash rates as well as stuff like automated enforcement for red light running and speeding,” said Monfort.

The Insurance Institute says it’s also trying to coordinate with automakers to help resolve the SUV/bike problem.