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

May 26, 2021 Editorial Staff
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Between 2016 and 2020, the number of SUVs owned by New Yorkers increased by 21%


New Yorkers are buying SUVs at an increasingly high rate, and larger 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.

Between 2016 and 2020, there was a 21% increase citywide in the number of SUVs owned by New Yorkers. Over the same period, there was a 17% decrease citywide in the number of sedans. In both Brooklyn and Staten Island, the number of SUVs increased by a whopping 25% 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 and eight fatalities respectively so far.

The overall share of personal vehicles that are SUVs has also rapidly increased in New York City.  In 2016, SUVs were slightly more than 50% of all personal vehicles owned citywide. By 2020, more than six in every ten personal vehicles in New York City was an SUV.DAILY TOP BROOKLYN NEWSNews for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The shift toward larger, higher-riding vehicles has disastrous consequences for vulnerable road users. The share of fatalities involving SUVs in New York City has increased 55% for cyclists and 47% for pedestrians compared to Mayor de Blasio’s first term. The share of cycling and pedestrian deaths involving sedans declined 57% and 33% over the same period.

“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. It is our hope that with new safety information at the point of purchase, New Yorkers can better understand how their choice of car puts their neighbors in danger.”

“Our government puts warning labels on all sorts of dangerous products. New York State can be a nationwide leader by requiring a five-star safety rating system for new SUVs. This is one key step in our larger movement to reach Vision Zero and pass the entire Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act. While we urge automakers to build safer cars and transportation departments to build safer streets, government also must step up and respond to the growing public health problem of deadly SUVs,” said Amy Tam, member of Families for Safe Streets and mother of Allison Liao, a three-year-old who was killed in 2013 by a reckless driver while crossing the street in Flushing with her grandmother.

After increasing over the past two years, the number of traffic fatalities on New York City streets are likely to reach grim milestones yet again in 2021. 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.

Legislation introduced in the NYS Legislature, and part of the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act package, would address the rise in traffic fatalities – and help to specifically combat the proliferation of dangerous SUVs. The Vehicle Safety Rating and Labeling bills from Senator Andrew Gounardes (S4307) and Assemblymember Nily Rozic (A575) 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, outside of the vehicle.–>

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, pedestrians struck by SUVs are 2.5 to 3 times more likely to be killed (and child pedestrians are as much as four times as likely). SUVs are not just heavier (hitting pedestrians with higher deadly force) but, as consequentially, strike them higher on the body (in the abdomen or head) where injuries are more likely to be fatal. The same trend has been documented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Detroit Free Press.

“These increasingly larger SUV’s pose a real danger to pedestrians and cyclists across our city, and this growing trend must be addressed,” said Senator Andrew 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. We need to pass measures like these included in the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act so that no one has to live in fear of crossing the street.”

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