Traffic crashes killed 112 people in New York City in the first half of 2023, making this year one of the deadliest for roadway fatalities since the City’s Vision Zero initiative began. The grim statistic comes amid a surge in NYC SUV ownership. Bikers and pedestrians have been the hardest hit by the proliferation of what Transportation Alternatives calls “Supersized Vehicles.”

Although new vehicles are getting safer and provide better occupant protection, larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks pose a greater threat to people on the outside and are associated with an uptick in deadly traffic accidents.

NYC SUV Ownership Increased 21% Over 4 Years

68-year-old Joyce Greenberg was crossing the street in a wheelchair in Brooklyn when a Lexus SUV struck and killed her. Two weeks later, an e-bike rider in the Bronx was the victim of an SUV hit-and-run.

These are not isolated incidents, but part of a wider trend. From 2016 to 2019, SUV-related injuries in New York City increased 91% and fatalities increased 75%. Not coincidentally, between 2016 and 2020 there was a 21% increase in the number of SUVs owned by New Yorkers and a 17% citywide decrease in sedan ownership.

Larger, heavier vehicles are particularly dangerous to vulnerable road users like cyclists and pedestrians. In 2016, SUV drivers killed 40 pedestrians and cyclists in NYC and injured 3,103. In 2019, these numbers rose 75% and 91%, respectively, to 70 deaths and 5,926 injuries.

During the first six months of 2023, traffic crashes killed 112 New Yorkers, including 18 cyclists. Both of these figures are above Vision Zero-era averages. Compared to 2014, the first year of Vision Zero in New York, the percentage of fatalities involving SUVs has increased 55% for cyclists and 47% for pedestrians, while the percentage of sedan-related cyclist and pedestrian deaths decreased 57% and 33%.

Currently, more than 60% of all registered vehicles in NYC are SUVs and light trucks, according to Transportation Alternatives, which has introduced the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, a bill that would enact a crash victims bill of rights. The legislation contains a provision requiring SUVs and pickup trucks to display warning labels conveying the vehicle’s danger to cyclists and pedestrians.  

“Our leaders in Albany need to realize that SUVs are a serious public health problem,” said the Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives. “We can become a leader nationwide in revealing the danger that SUVs pose to vulnerable road users outside of the vehicle.”

Studies show that for every 1,000-pound increase in vehicle weight, there is a 46-percent increase in motorist fatalities. The average weight of a car in 1980 was about 3,200 pounds. It is now 4,200 pounds—a 31% increase. Over the past two decades, the average weight of a pickup truck increased 24 percent.

NYC Trends Mirror National Data

Larger vehicles aren’t just causing carnage on NYC streets. They’re a problem nationwide.

Government test data shows that vehicles have been getting safer due to equipment and technology improvements. But government data also shows an upward trend in car accident fatalities over the last decade.  

Between 2011 and 2022, pedestrian and cyclist deaths increased 60% in the United States. Last year, SUVs, pickup trucks, and vans accounted for 78% of new U.S. vehicle sales.

The NHTSA’s 5-Star Safety Ratings system, implemented more than 40 years ago, only considers the safety of people inside vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists are excluded from the ratings.

NHTSA has proposed adding pedestrian crash avoidance tests to their rating system, but they would reportedly be voluntary, and a vehicle that failed the pedestrian crash-worthiness test could still receive five stars. NHTSA has also proposed pedestrian automatic emergency braking for new cars and light trucks.  

Technological advancements could help to compensate for the larger blind spots and longer braking distances of SUVs. Safety experts, however, say a more comprehensive approach that factors in infrastructure changes, education, and speed limit enforcement is needed to reduce traffic violence.

As part of its Vision Zero initiative to eliminate death and serious injuries from traffic incidents, New York City has implemented more speed cameras. And recent data indicates they are having the desired effect.  

The NYC DOT announced in August that speeding, injuries, and traffic fatalities declined in areas with speed cameras during the first year of 24/7 enforcement. NYS Senator Andrew Gounarders, who introduced the bill calling for 24/7 speed cameras, said the latest data is a sign of “significant” progress towards Vision Zero.

Protecting Injured New Yorkers Since 1967

Bigger vehicles lead to bigger collisions, bigger injuries, bigger medical bills, bigger insurance claims, and a bigger hassle for car accident victims.

For more than 50 years, New Yorkers struggling to deal with the hardships that follow an injury have found the support they need from The Sanders Law Firm, one of the state’s largest, most aggressive, and most successful personal injury firms.

For a free consultation, call (855) SANDERS or contact us.