While many cities have undertaken initiatives to make it safer and more convenient for walking and biking, the motor industry has been selling bigger and larger vehicles, with over 1.4 million Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers being sold in the United States in the first quarter of 2018. What is the difference between these two categories? A SUV is a vehicle built on a truck platform, while a crossover is a unibody construction on a car platform, and is supposed to be more maneuverable and parkable. Both of these are large vehicles and are outselling sedans.
Indeed trucks and SUVs comprise 60 percent of the new vehicle purchases in the United States, and have been contributing to an increasing proportion of pedestrian deaths. From 2009 to 2016 pedestrian deaths have risen 46 percent and are directly linked to the increase of these large vehicles on the road.
Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille is twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers.
So why are people buying these large vehicles?
As this report suggests the larger size “is ideal for families, who appreciate the space to carry more passengers as well as haul modern-day cargo from groceries to IKEA furniture. Their larger size also provides a higher level of safety. Drivers also appreciate sitting higher in the vehicle, which can give a better vantage point for maneuvering the vehicle. And for drivers who live in harsh climates, SUVs and Crossovers offer a rugged build and all-wheel drive that handles better in the snow than smaller cars do.”
It is all about the driver experience and nothing about the pedestrian or cyclist survival after being hit by these vehicles. As the NPR reports in 2018 pedestrian deaths in the United States reached a 28 year high with 6,227 pedestrians killed in crashes. That is 4 percent more than 2017, and is roughly equivalent to the population of Yarmouth Nova Scotia.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) directly links pedestrian deaths to the SUVs noting that their involvement in fatal crashes has increased by 50 percent since 2013. These SUVs “cause more severe pedestrian injuries and make up an increasingly large percentage of registered vehicles”. The GHSA also clearly identify the popularity of SUVs and trucks as more likely to kill a pedestrian due to the size and weight differential.
But automobile companies are selling a product, and the current promotions for large trucks and SUVS are selling an “experience”. Trucks are being sold as the perfect city/country vehicle for a whole range of hardy people. Take a look at the YouTube video below which usurps an old Donny and Marie Osmond song to peddle trucks to cowboys, soldiers, construction workers, musicians and horse fanciers. It’s not about sustainability and doing right by the environment, it is about power, speed, the outdoors and being rugged.
And you will notice there is not one pedestrian in sight.
Do we know what these numbers are for cities in Canada?
I recently wrote federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau on this topic. The reply, which missed much of the point of my email, follows:
Thank you for your email of January 9, 2019, regarding the safety of pedestrians around trucks and SUVs.
Safety is Transport Canada’s top priority, including measures to strengthen road safety for all road users in Canada.
At the outset, I would like to explain that road safety is a shared responsibility among all levels of government, industry partners and all road users. Transport Canada is responsible for establishing regulations for new and imported vehicles, tires and child restraints. The provinces and territories are responsible for driver licensing, vehicle registration, and the enforcement of road safety, including the rules of the road and the administration of justice.
With respect to strengthening road safety for pedestrians, I would like to bring to your attention that, on August 28, 2018, Transport Canada published a report entitled Safety Measures for Cyclists and Pedestrians around Heavy Vehicles. Resulting from extensive consultation with the road safety community, the report is intended to create a springboard for action to support all jurisdictions as they address safety challenges within their communities. The report describes a series of 57 safety measures to better protect vulnerable road users. Examples include:
· automated enforcement technologies, such as speed and red-light cameras;
· roadway and cycling infrastructure, such as segregated cycling tracks; and
· visibility and awareness measures, such as warnings in heavy trucks to detect nearby pedestrians.
This report is available online at https://comt.ca/reports/safetymeasures.pdf.
Transport Canada is also engaged in research to examine various driver assistance features, such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), including pedestrian detection. These technologies would be able to warn the driver if pedestrians are nearby, and even begin braking. Moving forward, my department will continue to look at AEB closely through its crash-avoidance research program to identify opportunities to significantly reduce risk.
I would also like to note that Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025, which has been endorsed by all federal/provincial/territorial Ministers Responsible for Transportation and Highway Safety features initiatives to strengthen road safety, including measures to protect vulnerable road users. More information on the Strategy can be found at http://roadsafetystrategy.ca/en/.
Thank you again for writing on this important topic.
This image is so stark.
A baby stroller crushed.
The hood of this ridiculous vehicle buckled by the motorist hitting the mother. Dead? Critically injured? The baby?
We need more images like this as an antidote to the rubbish promulgated by motordom.
Motordom rams illusion down our throats; not unlike the tobacco industry venally used to do; until stopped by force of law, whereupon they scurried like rats to countries where such laws do not exist.
It would be useful if motordom advertisers were forced to include warnings.
For my part, I’d ban eating and smoking in vehicles.
I’d treat phones like open alcohol. They must be turned off and placed out of reach. One of the most frequent dangers I encounter is motorists that pull over suddenly and park askew because their phones ring and they want to quack. For a cyclist, it’s scary.
I’d require stress tests for vehicle ownership – no easy predatory lending and leasing. That would take a huge number of gullible buyers off the road. I paid cash for my little wagon 26 years ago when I was single. Ridiculed because it was not a cool thing to own. Now, I’m a home owner with a wife and two kids.
Signing up for vehicle payments is the biggest impediment to financial freedom. This should be taught.
People respond to awards.
If there were bumper stickers available for Roadsafe drivers, would motorists stick them on?
After all these years of flushing cash down the ICBC toilet, to subsidise Lambo lunatics and rice rocket morons with loud exhausts, I’d post such a sticker on my bumper.
If a motorist is riding my ass at my perceived slowness, they’d see the Roadsafe sticker. Back off. Smarten up. I do know better.
Cyclists are the best motorists. By force of necessity they gauge lights and are sensitive to gradients; they don’t jackrabbit from one stop to the next. Hello motorist at the red light, yes, that’s me you’ve just blown past. See you at the next light. And you have the effrontry to think I should be wearing a helmet?
I think air bags should be abolished. The nicest thing about my old wagon is that it predates air bags. If I needed to buy a different vehicle, I’d buy one old enough to be free of this contrivance.
An air bagged coffee-sucking commuter in a large vehicle … knee bags … side curtain bags. Ridiculous.
Live near where you work. Slow down. Carpool. Have a conversation instead of being a beady-eyed beat-the-light airbagger.
It would be useful to post explanations by those who have committed road violence about where they were going. Where was that truck driver going when he assaulted a baby and mother? Was he in a rush to fuel up with coffee; rushing to work; was there a medical emergency? If the driver answers that he was on his way to pick up smokes at the 7-11, somehow that makes their action even more reprehensible. Brutal arrogance.
Fines and prison time are good, but if you’ve killed someone with your vehicle without demonstrable mitigating circumstances, your driving privileges should be gone for at least ten years.
I read in a how-to urban cycling book to be extra vigilant around coffee shops – that motorists looking to get caffeinated are dangerous. That seemed farfetched, but it happened to me on the Drive. The jonesing air-bagger could have killed me for a coffee.
On ‘People behaving badly’, there is a segment on motorists making illegal U turns to get to Peet’s Coffee Shop – one after the other. Jonesing jackasses getting fat tickets.
It would be an interesting statistic to discover how much vehicular traffic is dedicated just to the pursuit of this most widely consumed psychoactive drug; and, more importantly, how many instances of road violence can be attributed to this pursuit.
I recall a maid service vehicle wrapped around a post on Denman St. The smashed windscreen was coated in coffee. What are the odds that the maid had a cup of coffee in her hand when she whacked the post?
You could save lives by teaching people how to brew up coffee at home.
Yes, the Starbucks on 16th and MacDonald. Ive been nearly doored several times as I ride up 16th towards UBC. I am always VERY careful when I ride that stretch. Somnambulistic drivers just throw their doors open without even looking.
This morning I cycled west along Kingsway during rush hour for the first time. It was like being in a kayak on a raging river. Too scary. Won’t do that again. Got off it asap. I’m on Kingsway almost every day, but contend with motordom heading east during evening rush.
But I’ve learned to avoid that by threading the alleys on the north side. From Mount Pleasant you can cycle to Rupert and Kingsway with just one jog before Knight St. It’s a good ride. Head south on Gladstone to 34th and it’s civilized. At Rupert and Kingsway it gets awkward.
You can pop out at this intersection by climbing a small rise behind Collingwood Library. Then you’re stuck. The safest thing, unfortunately, is to ride the sidewalk a bit, then cross at the light at McKinnon. If there was a safe way to get up to School Ave and it were changed to allow cyclists to go east on along this one way street, that would work.
To continue in the vein of people behaving dangerously to get a caffeine fix, there’s a bubble tea place near Joyce and Kingsway. The patrons of this place park at the bus stop; at the handicapped; beside no stopping signs; double park. Hate them. Endangering and inconveniencing others so that they can suck sweet starch balls up a straw. Insane.
Contact the police about the bubbleheads, Arnie. You might be surprised to find that they will follow up if it is indeed as bad as you say. I complained about parked cars on 1st Ave. near the Olympic Village. Up to half were routinely blocking much of the bike lane through sheer laziness or incompetence, They were parking up to 2′ or 3′ away from the curb because the bike lane was seen as a convenient buffer rather than a travel lane. I didn’t think the police would take it seriously – but they did.
Unfortunately, over a period of months the problem returned so it does take follow up. Probably a good strategy to try and persuade others to complain next time. In this case you might even ask TransLink to call them too.
Police do not deal with parking violations they focus on moving violations. Park Enforcement Staff focus on parking violations. I suggest you call 311…make sure you have a City address adjacent to the improperly parked vehicles. I hope that helps.
You see, this is the thing. It used to be that you could walk around and bike around and motor vehicles were slow enough, smaller and fewer. This has now changed over the years. The likelihood of getting hurt and killed outside of a motor vehicle is far greater. This is why there is the call for Vision Zero, protected cycling infrastructure, traffic-light and traffic free streets.
The corporate media frames it differently. They frame it like the poor “normal person” is being oppressed by evil cyclists and pedestrians.
It’s probably the biggest issue of our times. Complex and intertwined with economies, business and war making.
It is amazing that governments which regulate every other facet of vehicles just let these oversized behemoths start wallowing on the roads with no studies or regulation. Even as a motorist I’m even afraid of getting plowed into by someone who can’t see around one of these things. It is a complete waste of resources for no benefit.
Re. the Humboldt road violence – 16 killed; 13 injured.
There are so many questions.
I keep wondering – what was that driver hauling?
Somehow, mangoes would be more forgivable than cheap merch. We can’t grow mangoes here. They have to be imported.
Bottled water, or tobacco – not forgivable.
Kale from Ecuador – no.
Rabbits, or Perrier from France; shortbread from Scotland; cookies from Denmark; beer from Germany or Mexico … No, no, no.
Duck from Hungary?! Wtf?!
How devastating if these people were killed because some business guy paid to transport junk for silly consumers; stuff that could be produced locally, or shouldn’t be produced at all.
What was he hauling that was instrumental in killing these people? Emergency medical supplies? Or rubbish.
The word bears repeating.
Ireland has phased out peat use. Britain plans to do the same.
There are those, in the employ of the industry, who say using peat is sustainable – with industry supported studies, of course.
Others say otherwise.
This fall, I picked up large paper bags filled with leaves from the West Side, for my East Side garden.
Meanwhile, diesel trucks driven by tax payer salaried drivers pick up East Side leaves and take them to the West Side. That’s just weird.
So, 16 killed, and 13 injured, transporting a product that should have stayed where it was.
Which is ecologically more reprehensible – transporting bottled water in plastic bottles; Caca Cola, or peat?
The recent proliferation of local brewers is very good. Why transport industrial suds by diesel truck?
Rob Ford should have promised subsidized locally brewed beer instead of big corporation buck a beer.