The case against SUVs

The case against SUVs

SUVs are everywhere and getting bigger. They have no place on our dense urban streets. We're going to highlight some of the reasons against these light trucks, marketed as cars, and then talk about a campaign we are launching to push back against the trend toward larger and larger vehicles.


SUVs use around 25% more gas than a sedan which means they are producing more climate destroying pollution. About half of the increase in CO2 emissions over the past 10 years is just from the rise in SUV sales. And a large portion of energy use and resulting emissions comes from the manufacturing of products so the larger the product being produced, the more energy and raw materials are required.

Scientists have been warning about human's destabilization of the climate system for decades. Now that the planet is significantly warmer, we can start to experience the consequences and scientists continue to learn as well. Very recent papers show that the Arctic is melting at a much faster rate that previously understood and likely be completely ice free within 10 years. We are entering and even more dangerous and unstable world and a period of abrupt, non-linear change. As a society we must start making hard choices and looking for changes that would have the biggest impact. Removing SUVs from the road is low hanging fruit.


Those of you following transportation issues have probably seen the stats. SUVs are killing more people. SUVs are 3 to 4 times more likely to kill a pedestrian than a sedan and there are way more of them on the road now - around an 80% increase over the past decade. The current estimate is that 40% more pedestrians and cyclists killed in the past 10 years, just by the rise in popularity of SUVs. The reasons are primarily physics and design. A larger object has more momentum and kinetic energy and does more destruction on impact. SUVs are trucks also have far less visibility for objects in front of them, which is why horrifically, the increase in fatalities from SUVs have been mostly in children. They are just not as easily visible from the cockpit of these trucks. People say they buy SUVs to keep their family safer and that may give them a slight edge for their own child, but at the expense of people outside their vehicle. (Also, if you care about your kids you will want them to live on a planet that can sustain life in the long run).


This simply follows that all of the negative aspects of cars: noise, air pollution, particulates, chemicals from production, apply in an outsized way to bigger "cars".

Social Justice

We live in a grossly inequitable time in the US - it has never been worse. Income and wealth inequality follows a long history of racism and this extends into material possessions as well as road safety and air pollution. Low income housing is intentionally placed in more dangerous areas of a city, like next to highways and polluting industry. When we look at the impacts of the above risks associated with SUVs we find that the negative impacts are also not distributed equally across society.

The Campaign

There are now ongoing campaigns around the world to raise awareness and push back against the car manufacturers who are aggressively marketing these products. Tyre Extinguishers are taking one approach - non-violent direct action to neutralize the problem. Another direct action approach is "brandalism" to inject truth in advertising as well as to reclaim public space from ads.

Our summer campaign will be flyering large SUVs with mock parking tickets that highlight the issues listed above and make a direct appeal to owners of these cars. We want to put SUV drivers on notice that the negative impacts of owning and driving a 6,000 lb car in the city is not welcome and we hope that the message is received by some who may not have fully considered how their choice is impacting other citizens, our planet and our ecosystem. This action is intended as a general public service announcement and awareness campaign.

Second, we are watching closely as NY introduces a bill to increase registration fees based on vehicle size. This has been passed in France and should make it increasingly unpalatable to purchase these super-size trucks. We will be working along side other organizations and MA legislatures to create a similar bill in MA. We are also planning on applying the same principles to parking tickets, gas and excise tax. These fines and fees should be proportionate to the size and cost of the vehicle to make them more progressive, dissuade people from owning them, and at the very least offset some of the cost to society from their negative impact.

If you are interested in helping with these initiatives, get in touch!

More information

Four reasons SUVs are less safe and worse for the environment than a regular car
The controversial cars are under attack.
SUVs Emitted Nearly 1 Billion Tons Of Carbon Dioxide In 2022 - Videos from The Weather Channel
The International Energy Agency released their findings on how much SUVs are contributing to climate change, and their suggestions to lower it. - Videos from The Weather Channel |
Carbon emissions from global SUV fleet outweighs that of most countries
Popularity of sport utility vehicles driving higher oil demand and climate crisis, say experts
Pickups and SUVs are driving the pedestrian death epidemic. But the tide may be turning. - Streetsblog Chicago
While big vehicles are safer for people on the inside, they’re more deadly for those on the outside. But there’s a movement to require safer automobile designs and create disincentives to owning oversized vehicles.