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New data reveals growing dangers and growing ownership of SUVs in New York City

Between 2016 and 2020, the number of SUVs owned by New Yorkers increased by 21%

May 25, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
Police inspect the totaled SUV after it came to a rest in front of the LIRR station.
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More and more New Yorkers are buying SUVs, and these large vehicles are contributing to more cyclist and pedestrian deaths in New York City, according to new data obtained by Transportation Alternatives through a Freedom of Information Law request with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

Brooklyn and Staten Island led the city in the number of SUVs owned by New Yorkers — in both boroughs, this number increased by 25 percent in only four years. In 2021, both boroughs are also on track to have the highest number of traffic fatalities since Vision Zero began, with 33 (Brooklyn) and eight (Staten Island) fatalities respectively so far, according to Transportation Alternatives.

Citywide, there was a 21 percent increase citywide in the number of SUVs owned by New Yorkers, according to the statistics. 

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In 2016, SUVs were slightly more than 50 percent of all personal vehicles owned citywide. By 2020, more than six in every 10 personal vehicles in New York City was an SUV.

The shift toward larger, higher-riding vehicles has disastrous consequences for vulnerable road users, Transportation Alternatives said. The share of fatalities involving SUVs in New York City has increased 55 percent for cyclists and 47 percent for pedestrians compared to Mayor de Blasio’s first term. 

The first four months of 2021, with 71 deaths, were the second deadliest first four months of any year in the de Blasio administration since 2014, when there were 72 fatalities by the same point. April 2021 was the deadliest April since Mayor de Blasio took office, with 26 people killed in fatal crashes citywide, the statistics say.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. Photo courtesy of Gounardes’ office

Legislation introduced in the State Legislature, and part of the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act package, would address the rise in traffic fatalities and help to specifically combat problem caused by SUVs. The Vehicle Safety Rating and Labeling bills from State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst-Marine Park) and Assemblymember Nily Rozic (D-Queens) would require SUVs and pickup trucks to display warning labels at their point of sale in New York State. 

This five-star safety rating legislation would be first-in-the-nation and convey to consumers the danger of their vehicle to vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and cyclists, Transportation Alternatives said. 

“These increasingly larger SUV’s pose a real danger to pedestrians and cyclists across our city, and this growing trend must be addressed,” said  Gounardes. “In response to the alarming spike of fatalities in the recent past, we have an obligation to ensure that consumers who purchase these vehicles are aware of the threat they pose to vulnerable road users. 

“That’s why I’m proud to have sponsored a bill to create a transparent, accessible pedestrian safety rating system for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians to understand the dangerous trends associated with certain vehicle models.”

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, pedestrians struck by SUVs are two-and-a-half to three times more likely to be killed (and child pedestrians are as much as four times as likely). SUVs are not just heavier, but also strike them higher on the body (in the abdomen or head) where injuries are more likely to be fatal. 

“Our leaders in Albany need to realize that SUVs are a serious public health problem,” said Marco Conner DiAquoi, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. “We need to pass the entire Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act this year to combat the rise in traffic violence across the entire state. In doing so, we can become a leader nationwide in revealing the danger that SUVs pose to vulnerable road users outside of the vehicle.”

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