Many Americans think that SUVs and trucks have become too large and should be regulated
February 9th, 2024, Clifton Mark

Many Americans think that SUVs and trucks have become too large and should be regulated

Over the past three decades, SUVs have come to dominate new car sales in America, with other large vehicles like pick-up trucks also selling in large numbers. By 2025, some experts believe that the light-truck segment, including SUVs, will make up 78% of sales. In this article, for ease we’ll refer to these vehicles collectively as ‘trucks’, even though SUVs are the most popular segment of this category.

But not only has the number of trucks on the road grown, they’ve grown in size too. For example, since 1990, pickup trucks have added 1300 pounds on average. Moreover, styling trends have created larger front ends that, aside from looking imposing, can decrease visibility from the cab, which critics – and studies - say increases the likelihood of accidents.

But do regular Americans perceive these trends to be a problem or is bigger better when it comes to today’s car market?

Who’s behind the wheel? 

According to a recent poll by YouGov Survey: Serviced, about half (47%) of adult Americans own or drive a truck. They’re distributed evenly across the regions of the country but are more popular among some demographics than others. In broad strokes, SUVs and trucks are most popular with consumers who are older, white, wealthy and who have children. For example, 55% of those aged 55+ own or drive one compared to 33% of 18-34s. About half (52%) of white Americans drive a truck compared to 31% of Black Americans. Parents of children any age are about twice as likely as non-parents to drive a large vehicle (59% vs. 32%).

What are the biggest problems with trucks, for their drivers and others? 

Despite the facts that trucks (especially SUVs) are enormously popular, 41% of Americans believe that they’ve become too large in recent years. And this aggregate number isn’t just compact car drivers resenting SUVs; 39% of truck drivers themselves believe that the vehicle category has become too big.

Large cars pose a particular set of problems, which both drivers and non-drivers have noticed. The most cited problems, which both truck drivers and non-truck-drivers agree on, are that they’re bad for the environment (51%) and that they’re hard to get into a parking space (51%).

hat trucks are dangerous to others on the road is the third most commonly chosen problem, and here truck drivers and non-truck drivers diverge. Of those who drive large vehicles, one in five (19%) consider that trucks cause a danger to others. This is a significant minority, but 32% of non-truck-drivers see trucks as a problematic hazard.

A significant portion of respondents filled in their own answers in the “other” option, and  a very large proportion of the answers concerned visibility both for those within the vehicle (“blind spots,” “hard to see when parking,” “can’t see bikers and pedestrians”) and visibility for other drivers who share space with trucks. Answers included many variations of “hard to see around” and “lights are too high and blind other drivers.”

Safety risks: truck riders, other cars, pedestrians and cyclists

Part of the reason that trucks are so popular among Americans is that they’re perceived to be safer for those in the vehicle. Among truck drivers, 68% believe this, 45% among others. However, when it comes to the safety of those outside the vehicle, things are different.

Half of all Americans believe that large vehicles such as trucks and SUVs are more dangerous for other vehicles on the road (49%) and for pedestrians and cyclists (50%). There are differences here between those who drive trucks and those who do not but many truck drivers do perceive an additional risk to other vehicles (40%) and pedestrians (43%).

Should regulation protect pedestrians from deadly trucks? 

The threats posed by trucks to pedestrians has been demonstrated by research and is widely recognized by Americans. What do they think is the appropriate response? Is regulating the size and design of vehicles a viable solution?

A significant minority of truck drivers (19%) take the libertarian view that vehicle design should not be regulated at all. Given that design is already regulated by law, this is an unlikely outcome and would certainly not improve road safety. Another 10% of all respondents believe that car design should be regulated, but only for the safety of the driver and passengers of the vehicle, not for those outside of the vehicle.

Yet the majority believe that something should be done in vehicle design to help protect vulnerable pedestrians. Again, these opinions are not confined to any SUV-hating minority, should it exist. They are also held by a large portion of those who drive SUVs or trucks.

About a quarter of all respondents (27%) believe that carmakers should voluntarily regulate the size and design of vehicles with the safety of pedestrians in mind, including 24% of truck drivers. Even more Americans (32%) believe that the government should step in and impose regulations. Again, this includes a significant portion of truck drivers (24%).

Evidence is mounting that large vehicles are a hazard to others on the road, especially pedestrians and cyclists. It appears that there is also significant public appetite that something is done to mitigate this danger, even if it means that the size of cars cannot keep expanding.

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YouGov Surveys: Serviced provide quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on February 6, 2024, with a nationally

representative sample of 1,116 adults (aged 18+ years) in the US, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures has been weighted to be representative of all adults in the US. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.