Indian government must discourage sales of large SUVs: Global NCAP chief

SUVs and road safety

Addressing an audience at the Global Road Safety Initiative being held in New Delhi, David Ward, executive president of the Global New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP), 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 and cyclists, as well as users of smaller cars on the roads.

  1. Size and weight of SUVs are detrimental road safety
  2. Large SUVs pose about three times more risk than medium ones
  3. SUVs make up more than 50 percent of the market in India

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.

How do large SUVs affect road safety?

In recent years, cars have become heavier, taller and more powerful, and several studies show that SUVs and pick-up trucks are more deadly to road users in almost any crash. “The risk of fatal injuries to vulnerable road users increases as the bonnet height of the vehicle hitting them increases," Ward pointed out. "For instance, a pedestrian or cyclist when hit by a car with a bonnet 90cm high runs a 30 percent greater risk of fatal injury than if hit by a vehicle with a bonnet 10cm lower."

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

Ward, who is the president of the Towards Zero Foundation, said it's important that in countries like India, the government push the market towards vehicles that are more fit for purpose and safer for all road users. “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," he added. 

SUVs now comprise over 50 percent market share

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 three-day Global Road Safety Initiative event is being organised by the Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE), in partnership with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), 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).

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