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The Case for Banning SUVs

Global SUV ownership is skyrocketing, with consequences for carbon emissions and traffic safety. A few voices are now calling for bans on the large vehicles.
October 26, 2019, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Sports Utility Vehicle
Lissandra Melo

More and more drivers around the world are opting for SUVs. Over the last decade, an analysis by the International Energy Agency found that the vehicles "contributed more to the increase in global CO2 emissions than airlines, trucks, or heavy industry," Adele Peters reports.

On top of the carbon costs, SUVs are also more likely than smaller vehicles to kill pedestrians and other drivers. "When an SUV hits a pedestrian, that person is more than twice as likely to die than if they had been hit with a smaller car. An investigation last year found that SUVs are a leading reason why pedestrian deaths in the U.S. increased 46% between 2009 and 2018," Peters writes.

The downsides of the worldwide SUV craze came into bitter relief this September when a collision in Berlin killed four people, sparking protests at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The outcry led a local district mayor to argue against allowing SUVs in cities, and the theme was taken up by a German parliamentary leader who argued for size restrictions.

Peters notes that transitioning to electric SUV fleets might solve the immediate emissions problem, but only partially offsets the carbon impact unless power grids are fully renewable. She also points out the following: "California—and several other localities—technically have a law on the book that allows cities to set a weight limit for vehicles on its roads, which many newer, larger SUVs exceed. The laws are largely unenforced, but could that change?"

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Published on Wednesday, October 23, 2019 in Fast Company
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