October 7, 2019

Why We Should Ban SUVs in Cities


I have been writing about how SUVs and trucks which make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Never doubt the power and strength of the motor vehicle lobby. A SUV  (sport utility vehicle) is a vehicle built on a truck platform with a “high profile” on the street. Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are 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.

It was the City of London England that banned a certain type of truck when the city realized that it was responsible for 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths. Of course there was pushback, but the Mayor of London just said no.

Laura Laker  in  the Guardian  now asks the question~is it time to ban SUVs from our cities? SUVs are heavily marketed and are highly profitable for car companies, but they are also deadly. Drivers have an 11 percent increase in the chance of fatality in them, as their size and bulk is connected with more reckless driving. They are also killing machines in the conventional sense. In September a SUV driver in Berlin lost control of his vehicle and killed four people on a sidewalk, a grandmother and grandson and two twenty year old men.

That was the tipping point for citizens in Berlin who called for size limitations on vehicles allowed in city centres, asking for a national policy permitting local authorities to restrict vehicles based upon size.

As Laker writes; SUVs are a paradox: while many people buy them to feel safer, they are statistically less safe than regular cars, both for those inside and those outside the vehicle. A person is 11% more likely to die in a crash inside an SUV than a regular saloon. Studies show they lull drivers into a false sense of security, encouraging them to take greater risks. Their height makes them twice as likely to roll in crashes and twice as likely to kill pedestrians by inflicting greater upper body and head injuries, as opposed to lower limb injuries people have a greater chance of surviving. Originally modelled from trucks, they are often exempt from the kinds of safety standards applied to passenger vehicles, including bonnet (hood) height. In Europe legislation is being brought in to end such “outdated and unjustified” exemptions.

In Europe,  SUVs are nearly 40% of all vehicle sales. If you are struck by a SUV you are twice as likely to be killed by its high motor profile. “British academics who analysed police collision data have identified pedestrians as 70% more likely to be killed if they were hit by someone driving a 2.4-litre engine vehicle than a 1.6-litre model.”

Europe does not collect statistics on vehicular fatalities by type, and researchers indicate that the lack of specific collision data and finger pointing means the car industry is creating bigger, heavier vehicles that are rolling family rooms. But large engine vehicles because of their size and profile are deadly.

SUVs are also ‘Climate killers’. There has been little progress on reducing  road transport carbon emissions in Europe, comprising 27% of all emissions. While the automobile industry blames regulators for turning away from diesel (lower in carbon but more toxic)  regulators blame the lack of progress on SUVs “driven by carmakers’ aggressive marketing”.

And here are the numbers~the size and larger engines in SUVs mean they have CO2 emissions that are 14% higher, with every market shift towards SUV’s increasing
CO2 emissions by 0.15g CO2/km on average. A 2018 Committee on Climate Change report noted that “the popularity of SUVs is cancelling out emissions savings from improvements in technology”.

We simply cannot drive our way out of climate change and increasing CO2 emissions, but we can take a stand. There is no place for SUVs in cities from an environmental standpoint. Being driven these are killing machines, and have no place in walkable, cyclable cities. It’s time to tell automakers that SUVs don’t belong here.



Posted in


If you love this region and have a view to its future please subscribe, donate, or become a Patron.

Share on


  1. Where does the 11% figure for increase in fatalities come from? I argue about this all the time with Inlaws that drive MASSIVE vehicles (and think I’m a suicide jockey for riding a bike to work).

    Editors Note: Link Added in article.

  2. Yes, there’s been a big shift over the years from station wagons and mini-vans to SUVs to perform the same family-cargo carrying functions.
    I think this is largely due to trends (ie ‘fashion’) rather than practicality.
    Bring back the station wagon!

  3. The issue is excessive speed (due to poor speed limits and physical design allowing such high speeds) and poor separation of cars and bikes or pedestrians.

    Cities are for all.

    What can be done is make streets far narrower, create far more car-free zones or green streets, lower speeds in residential areas or create better separation between cars and walkers/bikers. Look to UBC for such cityscape design, for example: Green streets, walkability throughput, wide sidewalks, non-straight streets, narrow streets, raised cross walks etc

    It’s not SUVs but car centric streets design that ought to be changed !!

    If a street that has a legal 50 km/h limit but a design to be able to go 90 km/h then of course there are more accidents.

  4. Banning things that most people want is not the way to win most people over. It just gets their back up and makes the banned thing more desirable.

    1. I would also hesitate to ban unless it’s found to be substantially more feasible or effective than alternatives. My proposal: change how insurance works. Currently, costs for accident damages are allocated according to responsibility for causing the accident. But the damage isn’t just about who made the accident happen: it’s also about which vehicle caused more harm.

      Imagine two people have a fight. Both are equally responsible in the sense that each strikes the other. However, one uses his bare fists while the other pulls out a knife. Would we say that both are equally responsible for the resulting injuries? I don’t think so. Similarly for vehicles. If you and I are each 50% responsible for causing a collision, but I chose to drive a vehicle that weighs twice yours, then my choices led to more than 50% of the damage.

      I propose multiplying responsibility for the crash by vehicle weight (F=ma after all). In the above case, I would be allocated 2/3 of the damages because my vehicle makes up 2/3 of the total weight. (One could still be allocated 0% if completely innocent of causing the collision). In turn (what really matters), this means that my insurance costs should be proportionally higher.

      A key word here is choice. I don’t like banning things, but driving an SUV is a choice. One should take responsibilty for the consequences of one’s choices. That doesn’t mean that SUV drivers are bad people (my vehicle is an SUV). They may well have good reasons for their choice. But even then, it’s simply not fair to inflict the costs of those choices on others.

      1. I wouldn’t toss out the idea of legislating additional vehicle costs in proportion to weight. There was a time when this was proposed as a GHG pricing mechanism. The heaviest SUVs and vanity trucks would pay a surcharge in accordance to their higher emission rates. Buses and legitimate commercial vehicles would be let off the hook or charged lower rates because of the vital services they provide.

        There are good reasons why SUVs and excessively-sized “family” trucks are known as Urban Assault Vehicles, and that’s not just in the realm of safety.

  5. If the street can accommodate higher speeds than those posted there should be fewer accidents because physics. Sadly the issue isn’t road design but human behaviour hence the need for limitations on equipment. Most subs have never seen a gravel road or even snow. They are ststua symbols not utility vehicles, despite the name.

  6. Well, we have weight limitations on some streets already so the legal power is there. We could have weight and horsepower limitations on some streets. This might cause some people to hesitate purchasing an SUV or big truck if it means less accessibility.
    Right now it seems people are choosing based on the principle of might-is-right.

  7. Remember the good times with the Ford Exploder. Ford blamed Firestone tires for the rollovers. Firestone pointed the finger right back.
    The slap on the wrist to big bad Ford? $500. vouchers towards Ford products.
    PBS Frontline says there were 70,000 rollovers of SUV’s in 2002 with 2,000 deaths – doesn’t indicate how many were maimed – probably quadruple that number. How many quadriplegics?
    I hate being behind the bloody things – they block sight lines.
    I wish the cesspool of veehickle advertising were banned; at least have warning labels like tobacco.
    CAUTION: Veehickles can be injurious to your financial health. They kill and injure more people than war.
    There was a guy in front of me as I wheeled a cart down the ramp at Stuporstore in Richmond. He was wearing flip flops and had a fancy haircut. He was carrying a plastic bottle of water – that’s all. He drove to the store wearing flip flops which, along with backless sandals and high heels, are dangerous to drive in – to buy a bottle of water. Omg.

Subscribe to Viewpoint Vancouver

Get breaking news and fresh views, direct to your inbox.

Join 7,301 other subscribers

Show your Support

Check our Patreon page for stylish coffee mugs, private city tours, and more – or, make a one-time or recurring donation. Thank you for helping shape this place we love.

Popular Articles

See All

All Articles