‘Industry’s relentless push to sell large SUVs bad news for road safety’: David Ward

The President of the Towards Zero Foundation highlighted that large SUVs increase the risk of causing serious injury to other road users by about a third more than medium-sized SUVs, and are unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists, as well as users of smaller cars on the roads, urging for government intervention to push for vehicles that are more fit for purpose and safer for all road users.

By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 05 Dec 2023 Views icon2317 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
‘Industry’s relentless push to sell large SUVs bad news for road safety’: David Ward

It is a widely known fact that India is among the top-ranking countries when it comes to road accidents. According to the latest data issued by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), at least one person died every three minutes in the country, with road accidents claiming 1,55,781 lives and causing injuries to 4,43,366 people during the calendar year 2022.

With an alarming number of accidents on its roads, India must avoid going the United States’ way of selling more SUVs, as they make the roads less safe for other small car occupants, pedestrians, and cyclists, cited David Ward, President, TowardZero Foundation.

David Ward: “It would be a major mistake if the Indian auto industry follows US example on size and weight of SUVs. For our climate goals and safety of vulnerable road users, vehicle size matters more than ever before."

Ward was addressing the audience at the Global Road Safety Initiative being held in New Delhi, and said, “Recent studies in various countries have shown that the car industry’s relentless push to sell ever larger and heavier SUVs in every segment is bad news for road safety, but particularly for those driving smaller, more efficient vehicles, and vulnerable road users. It is critically important for countries like India that the government push the market towards vehicles that are more fit for purpose and safer for all road users.”

The three-day event is being organised by the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE), in partnership with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, and in association with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

“Increasing growth and demand for SUVs in India and other countries is a major road safety and environmental challenge, the governments should discourage sale of these big vehicles. In recent years, cars have become heavier, taller, and more powerful. Numerous studies have found that SUVs and pick-up vehicles are more deadly to vulnerable road users (VRUs) in almost any crash,” Ward said.

With every second car sold in India being an SUV or MPV, their rate of growth is far above that of hatchbacks, or sedans, with the UV sub-segment continuing to be the sales driver for nearly all major OEMS in the country.

SUV sales in India are estimated to have registered a 26 percent year-on-year growth in the first eight months of FY24 between April and November 2023. SUV contribution to overall passenger vehicle sales in India is on the rise, and while it was pegged at 51 percent in September, it climbed to 53 percent in November this year.

“The risk of fatal injuries to vulnerable road users increases as the bonnet height of the vehicle hitting them increases. For instance, a pedestrian or cyclist when hit by a car with a bonnet 90cm high runs a 30% greater risk of fatal injury than if hit by a vehicle with a bonnet 10cm lower. Large SUVs increased the risk of serious injury to other road users by about a third more than medium-sized SUVs,” pointed out Ward.

“The car industry’s relentless push to sell ever larger and heavier SUVs in every segment is bad news for road safety, but particularly for those driving smaller, more efficient vehicles, and vulnerable road users. The Indian government has taken maximum steps for increasing road safety in recent few years including development of Bharat NCAP with partnership with none other than Global NCAP. India has been adopting global road safety practices by keeping a watch on the global best practices,” Ward signed off.

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