Mayor says, "Such tank-like SUVs do not belong in the city."
Four people, including a toddler, were killed last Friday when the driver of a Porsche SUV veered onto a sidewalk full of pedestrians in central Berlin. The police are suggesting that it might have been a medical emergency, but unusually, a lot of people are complaining about the car.
Greenpeace blockaded a ship loading SUVs on the weekend. According to Deutsche Welle:
The district mayor says "tank-like SUV cars" don't belong in the city, as every driving error puts the lives of innocent people at risk. "These [cars] are also climate killers. They are a threat even without an accident."
It is "completely irresponsible to produce and drive SUVs," said Benjamin Stephan, a Greenpeace official, adding that German manufacturers must move away from "climate killers" and produce lighter electronic cars. "The risk of dying in an accident involving an SUV is much higher than a normal car. Pedestrians have a 50% higher risk of fatal accidents due to the higher bonnet [hood]," according to Greenpeace.
SUVs now make up a third of the German car market and there are serious calls for regulation.
"We need an upper limit for large SUVs in city centres,” said Oliver Krischner, the deputy chairman of the Green parliamentary group, to the Tagesspiegel on Monday. "The best solution would be a federal regulation that would allow cities to impose certain size limits. Cars need ever wider parking spaces in cities where space is becoming increasingly scarce,” said Krischer. “They are a particular danger to pedestrians and cyclists. There is an urgent need for a debate on how big the cars that drive around our inner cities should still be.”
Of course, the right wing Populist party says the incident is being co-opted by "car haters" for political purposes.
By North American standards, the Porsche Macan isn't even that big a car, weighing 4200 pounds and with a relatively low front end that earns it a "good" rating on the Euro NCAP pedestrian safety scale.
But the politicians and activists have a point; SUVs and giant pickup trucks being used as personal vehicles do not belong in cities. Pedestrians are three times as likely to die when hit by them. The number of pedestrians being killed is rising in lockstep with light truck sales.
We have written before that carmakers should make SUVs and light trucks as safe as cars or get rid of them and that they should be banned in cities. German citizens and politicians are demanding this, but it appears to be a total blind spot in North America. A few years ago, researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute studied the issue and found:
Age and vehicle type are two important factors affecting the injury risks in vehicle-to-pedestrian crashes. Interestingly, there are currently two independent trends in the world, especially in developed countries, with one being the aging of the population and the other the increasing proportion of SUVs. Unfortunately, both of these trends tend to increase the pedestrian-injury risk. Consequently, addressing the hazards posed by SUVs to older pedestrians is an important traffic-safety challenge.
It's time to address this. SUVs and pickups are a threat to everyone.