SUVs Trucks & SUVs

Drivers Say This Common SUV Design Feature is a ‘Detriment to Safety’

Brake lights illuminated on a new Land Rover Defender SUV

Drivers who buy sport utility vehicles typically need a lot of interior space for cargo or passengers. An SUV is often distinguished by its boxy shape, slightly lifted body, and headlights placed near the car’s bumper. In many models, the turn indicators, brake lights, and tail lamps are their own units. However, some drivers argue that this design element needs to go.

SUV design a detriment to safety?

The original poster of the Reddit thread argues that this unconventional layout creates a major safety hazard for others on the road. Since each function is separated into three pairs of lights, it can be difficult for others to determine what the driver is doing.

If you’re unfamiliar with this setup, it’s easy to confuse the brake lights for the turn lights and vice versa. This could be a problem especially for those driving behind these SUVs. If the car in front of you was reversing but you mistook it as a turn signal, a fender bender is nearly inevitable.

Other SUV design complaints

The visibility issue creates a host of other problems. Accidents are more likely to occur with these cars than those with regular taillight placement. The reverse lights are usually placed on the bumper’s outer corners, which is often one of the first places damaged in a collision. Now these models are putting the turn signals in nearly the exact same location

This means that, in an accident, you’ll have to replace two sets of bulbs, if not more. With the damaged bumper, you’re looking at a big repair bill. The average cost to fix a set of broken taillights is around $165 to $700, reports CarGuru. A dented bumper may only cost $200, but if you have a large crack or scrape, you might have to pay over $1,000.

If you don’t mind your car looking like an eyesore, it’s legal to drive with a damaged bumper. However, because these SUVs’ taillights can only function correctly on an intact bumper, you can’t replace one without the other. This is why so many drivers are frustrated with this design.

What SUVs have this setup?

The most notable examples of cars with this design include the Hyundai Kona, Santa Fe, Kia Forte, and Kia Sportage. (The Sportage had a single pair of lights until the 2011 model year.) Aside from SUVs, certain other cars also use this unique taillight placement, like the 6-Series BMW.

What is the purpose of this layout?

While many users argue that it’s “lazy design,” it may also serve a practical purpose. Since SUV owners want a lot of cargo room, engineers removed the taillights from the sides of the trunk to create more space. It’s against regulations to put the taillights on any car part that can be moved, so the only other option was to place them on the bumper. As one user points out, this also allows them to use cheaper materials to house the bulbs.

It’s hard to find an SUV that doesn’t use this taillight placement, although the Kona and Forte’s turn signals are on the lowest possible point of the trunk. No accidents have been reported specifically because of this design, but we can definitely see the cause for concern.