Brooklyn’s Gounardes leads effort to reduce fatal impact of oversized vehicles in city

Transportation Alternatives report backs up dangers to pedestrians

June 26, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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QUEENS — Brooklyn-based state Senator Andrew Gounardes joined his fellow legislature from Queens, Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani, at the Queens site of a tragic traffic death of a child, Newtown Road and 45th Street. They were there to announce bill S6657A, which would re-adjust the registration fees for all personal vehicles. The bill hopes to reduce the number of heavy SUVs on the road. At the same press conference, Transportation Alternatives released its new report on the dangers and hidden costs of oversized vehicles, “The Deadly and Costly Impact of Supersized Vehicles on New York.”

Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani (left) of Queens State Senator Andrew Gounardes (right) of Brooklyn.
New legislation was introduced to prevent more traffic deaths, like this seven-year-old victim who was killed at the corner of Newtown Road and 45th Street.

The report illustrates how large personal vehicles — which are growing ever more popular in New York City — are seriously harming New Yorkers and damaging roads and bridges across the city and state. Large personal vehicles make fatal crashes more likely and are at a greater risk of hitting pedestrians. For every 1,000-pound increase in vehicle weight, there is a 46% increase in motorist fatalities; a pedestrian struck by an SUV or pickup truck is 41% more likely to die than a pedestrian struck by a sedan at the same speed. These large vehicles are also especially dangerous for children. Additionally, road damage increases exponentially as vehicles become heavier, so a GMC Hummer EV, weighing 9,063 pounds, causes 116 times as much road damage as a Honda Civic, weighing 2,762 pounds.

“Each year, our cars become heavier, bigger, and deadlier,” said Danny Harris, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “These supersized vehicles are killing more New Yorkers than ever before, while also causing massive damage to streets and bridges. Our leaders can’t sit idly by while more and more New Yorkers choose massive cars — they must incentivize and support purchasing smaller, lighter vehicles. Thank you to Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Mamdani for introducing this legislation to address this deadly issue — we’re hoping to see other leaders in Albany treat this crisis with the urgency it deserves.”

“My grandfather was the strongest person I knew. He survived the Holocaust, two wars and cancer, but the high weight of an SUV created a lethal force that ended his life. I’m asking lawmakers to feel the weight I carry every single day, and take steps to make sure no one else feels this terrible impact by cars that are as dangerous and weigh as much as a rhino,” said Elke Weiss, a member of Families for Safe Streets.

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Julie Huntington, a member of Families for Safe Streets.

Despite their outsized harms, New York State’s registration fee structure does not accurately reflect the impact of weight and size. The report argues for an adjustment of the already existing vehicle weight fee to make it more representative of the varying danger and damage caused by lighter and smaller vehicles — just as Washington, D.C. has already done. The fee would follow a sliding scale, so owners of small vehicles would pay less than they do today, while owners of larger, heavier vehicles would have to pay additional fees for their vehicles’ outsized negative impact.

Read the full report, “The Deadly and Costly Impact of Supersized Vehicles on New York,” online.

Elizabeth Adams from Transportation Alternatives.

“The heavier a car is, the deadlier it is — it’s a simple fact of physics. And the heavier a car is, the more it degrades our roads and pollutes our environment, too. This bill is a clear and straightforward way to address the heightened dangers heavier cars pose to New Yorkers they share the road with, as well as the heightened impact they have on our City itself,” said State Senator Andrew Gounardes.

“Larger and heavier vehicles carry a great cost for New Yorkers: they are more likely to kill pedestrians in a crash. This legislation makes the currently invisible costs of a heavier vehicle — for New Yorkers’ lives, for the environment and for our infrastructure — visible. The crisis of vehicle deaths in our city is not inevitable: it is a result of how we design our streets and the cars we incentivize to be on our roads,” said Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani.

Queens Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani.

“The race to design ever larger vehicles has come with disastrous consequences for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike, not to mention increased wear and tear on our infrastructure. It is important for drivers who want these oversized vehicles to contribute according to the social harms they cause,” said Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris.

“Like many of my fellow colleagues, I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of unsafe streets and traffic violence; this year, I lost one of my constituents, 7-year-old Dolma Naadhun, when she was struck by a large vehicle while crossing the street with her mother, who witnessed her tragic death. Too many New Yorkers have lost loved ones because of our inaction on traffic violence. I join my colleagues and all the advocates here today in celebrating the introduction of this new legislation that will tax heavier and larger vehicles at higher rates. This bill will be good for the environment and will help keep our streets more safe for pedestrians and cyclists. I look forward to fighting for it next session,” said Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas.

A Car2Go vehicle in Park Slope. Eagle photo by Samantha Samel.

Editors’ Note: Back in 2014, Brooklyn Eagle columnist Sam Howe wrote a ‘modest proposal’ for solving traffic woes in the city, which included, among other things, prohibiting oversized vehicles from parking on city streets. Read the rest of his modest proposal here.

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