Britain: SUVs are too big and should be regulated
February 23rd, 2024, Clifton Mark

Britain: SUVs are too big and should be regulated

As SUVs and pickup trucks become more popular among Britons, many believe that these vehicles are getting too big. According to Transport & Environment, more than half of new cars sold in 2023 were too wide for many parking spaces and are encroaching on scarce road space. Not only are large cars crowding the roadways, research shows that large vehicles cause significantly more pedestrian deaths than more modestly proportioned motors.

These concerns are not the preserve of research studies. According to a recent YouGov survey, many Britons, including SUV/pick-up truck owners themselves, are worried about the hazards posed by large cars and believe that they should be regulated.

Who drives SUVs and what are the problems with large vehicles?

According to a recent poll by YouGov Survey: Serviced, 12% of adult Britons own or drive an SUV or pickup truck (i.e., SUV/pick-up drivers). The data shows men are more likely to be own or drive a SUV/pick-up truck than women (14% vs. 10%), and that parents are more likely than the childless to do the same (15% vs 7%). Those living in rural areas are more likely than average to own or drive a pickup or SUV, at 16%.

Most Britons (61%) believe that pick-up trucks and SUVs have gotten too big in recent years.

And this aggregate number isn’t just compact car drivers resenting SUVs; most pickup and SUV drivers themselves (52%) believe that the vehicle category has become too big.

SUV/Pickup drivers, as well as everyone else, have noticed that large vehicles pose certain problems. The most cited issues are that they’re hard to park (62%) and that they’re bad for the environment (59%). That pickups and SUVs are dangerous to others is the third-most commonly identified problem, and here truck drivers diverge from the general population. Of those who drive large vehicles, one in five (20%) think they’re a danger to others, only half as many as in the general population (40%).

Some respondents also cite other problems that apart from those we asked about. Many of their answers mention the poor fit between large cars and small British roads and parking spaces. Respondents also complain that SUVs and pickups take up too much space and damage the roads. Many are also concerned that large vehicles are unnecessary and driven for the wrong reasons (“status symbols,” “vanity tanks for idiots,” “appeal to the narcissist part of people’s minds.”)

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

Part of the reason that large vehicles are popular is that they’re perceived to be safer for those in the vehicle. Among large vehicle drivers, 60% believe this, 38% among others. However, when it comes to the safety of those outside the vehicle, things are different.

More than half of Britons believe that pickup trucks and SUVs are more dangerous for other vehicles on the road (58%) and for pedestrians and cyclists (66%). There are differences here between those who drive trucks and those who do not, but many SUV/pick-up truck drivers do perceive an additional risk to other vehicles (42%) and pedestrians (50%).

Should regulation protect pedestrians from deadly trucks?

The threats posed by trucks to pedestrians has been demonstrated by research and is widely recognized by Britons. What do they think is the appropriate response? Is regulating the size and design of vehicles the best solution in the eyes of the public?

Half of Britons (52%) believe that the government should impose regulations on the design of vehicles to protect the safety of pedestrians, while another 20% believe that regulation is in order but that it should be adopted voluntarily by carmakers. Only one in ten (10%) believe that pedestrian safety should not be a factor in car regulation, including half (5%) who say there should be no regulation on vehicle design at all.

Evidence is mounting that large vehicles are a hazard to others on the road, especially pedestrians and cyclists. As SUVs and pickups become more common on British roads, there is a significant public appetite that something is done to curb this danger.

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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 1-4 December 2023, with a nationally/ representative sample of 2065 adults (aged 18+ years) in Great Britain, using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education and social grade to be representative of all adults in Great Britain (18 years or older), and reflect the latest ONS population estimates. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Serviced.