Make Light Trucks as Safe as Cars or Ban Them From Cities

A lot of people are asking questions after a 5-year-old gets killed by a Giant Jeep.

Jeep Gladiator
Jeep Gladiator, not on an urban road.

Lloyd Alter

A lot of people were outraged when a Toronto area TV network tweeted about the death of a 5-year-old child, mostly complaining about the language used. The network said he was struck by a vehicle, not a driver. Even Gil Penalosa, urban activist and founder of mobility non-profit 8-80 Cities, did this.

8-80 Cities has the motto: "We believe that if everything we do in our cities is great for an 8 year old and an 80 year old, then it will be great for all people." So I pointed out that "a bigger issue than language here is the vehicle, its size and height and driver visibility, it belongs off road or in the army it was built for, not on the streets of a city. it is deadly by design."

Penalosa responded, noting:

Gil is right about all those things. In this case, the driver was turning right from a bus lane on a 6-lane "stroad," a term invented by Charles Marohn of Strong Towns to describe "those dangerous, multi-laned thoroughfares you encounter in nearly every city, town and suburb in America." According to Marohn, stroads are "what happens when a street—a place where people interact with businesses and residences and wealth is produced—gets combined with a road—a high-speed route between productive places."

bus in bus lane Hurontario
Car turned from bus lane on right.

Google Street View

The driver of the vehicle then drove over the pedestrian crossing where the child was riding north with his dad right behind him. The woman behind the wheel was not drunk and remained on the scene, so of course, no charges have been laid.

The vehicle is a Jeep Gladiator, which is classed as a mid-sized pickup truck. It has high ground clearance and a mostly flat front, a slot of a windshield, and probably a lousy view of what is right in front of it.

As far as regulators like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is concerned, that's fine with them. Pedestrian safety is barely on their radar even with passenger cars, and with light trucks, it is nonexistent; they would rather keep blaming victims instead of regulating SUVs and pickups. In their deep dive, "Death On Foot: America's Love of SUV's is killing Pedestrians," the Detroit Free Press noted:

  • Federal safety regulators have known for years that SUVs, with their higher front-end profile, are at least twice as likely as cars to kill the walkers, joggers and children they hit, yet have done little to reduce deaths or publicize the danger.
  • A federal proposal to factor pedestrians into vehicle safety ratings has stalled, with opposition from some automakers. 

We have been going on for years that automakers should make SUVs and light trucks as safe as cars or get rid of them, and more recently quoted the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) who issued a report noting that SUVs remain "disproportionately likely to kill":

"Past research has found that SUVs, pickup trucks, and passenger vans pose an outsize risk to pedestrians. Compared with cars, these vehicles (collectively known as LTVs) are 2-3 times more likely to kill the pedestrian in a crash. The elevated injury risk associated with LTVs seems to stem from their higher leading edge, which tends to impart greater injury to the middle and upper body (including the thorax and abdomen) than cars, which instead tend to cause injury to the lower extremities."

Tom Flood

With children, it is a different story: As Tom Flood's child demonstrates, they aren't seen and they get dragged under.

Low hood is safer for people
Low hood is safer for people.


You don't see this often in Europe, where there are Euro-NCAP pedestrian standards that apply to every vehicle and result in low noses like on passenger cars or work vehicles like the Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter; they are designed around pedestrian safety. When a person is hit they roll onto the hood, and there is not enough room to go under the bumper.

I have done a few of these ARC rides to install ghost bikes where people on bikes are killed by people in cars. I have even left a chunk of money in my will for them to be paid out if this is the way I go out. In the Toronto area, it is far too common.

Intersection of Hurontario and Elm
North is up/ Hurontario and Elm.

Google Maps

I get how people are blaming the driver, but she had accomplices. Look at the curve radius, designed to make it easy to zip around corners without even slowing down. Look at the width of the road, designed to make it easy to go fast. Look at the design of the vehicle, an inflated jeep designed with high ground clearance for going off-road. Look at the attitude of pickup truck drivers, one of whom complained in my last post on this subject:

"I get what you’re saying, however, cyclists, pedestrians and the public needs to be educated on who’s paying the most on taxes at the fuel pump, where the monies come from to build and maintain our roads. USA’s road systems aren’t built for cyclists to safely navigate."

I'm sorry, but this was a child on a bike, out with his dad in a city—a city that has actually adopted Vision Zero. We have to fix our streets, we have to stop the child murders, and we have to make these vehicles as safe as cars or get them off the roads.