A trove of data about SUV ownership in New York City, obtained by street safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, reveals that New York City residents “are buying SUVs at an increasingly high rate, and larger vehicles are contributing to more cyclist and pedestrian deaths” in the city.
In the period between 2016 and 2020, SUV ownership in New York City increased by 21% while sedan ownership decreased by 17%, according to the data. At a borough-specific level, SUV ownership increased by 25% in both Brooklyn and Staten Island, which are both “on track to have the highest number of traffic fatalities since Vision Zero,” the city’s campaign to eliminate car crash injuries and deaths, was launched. In Brooklyn, there have been 33 car crash fatalities this year; in Staten Island, there have been eight car crash fatalities.
The data also reveal a stark uptick in the “overall share of personal vehicles that are SUVs” in New York City. Five years ago, in 2016, SUVs compromised “slightly more than 50 percent of all personal vehicles” in the city, a figure that rose to more than 60% in 2020. As Transportation Alternatives observes, when SUV ownership increases, pedestrians and cyclists suffer: “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.” At the same time, sedan-involved cyclist and pedestrian fatalities decreased 57% and 33%, respectively.
In a statement about the data, Transportation Alternatives’ Deputy Director Marco Conner DiAquoi said: “Our leaders in Albany need to realize that SUVs are a serious public health problem. 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.”
The Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act is a package of bills designed to improve street safety in New York City and statewide. Among other things, it would require those selling SUVs and pickup trucks to present a warning label at the vehicle’s point of sale, and it would give New York City the power to set its own speed limits.
More information on the increase of SUV ownership in New York City, and the legislative efforts to minimize the risks SUVs pose to pedestrians and cyclists, is available via Transportation Alternatives.