With pedestrian deaths rising, is now the right time to discuss SUVs?

Comment & Analysis: Is now the right time to discuss SUVs? When the issue of SUV danger is mentioned online, we’re often told, “Now is not the time”. But for those people, it never seems to be the right time.

It was reported on Monday that the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that 31-year-old Alicia Guilleux and her partner Florian Avril were visiting Ireland on a trip to celebrate a birthday. The couple were crossing the road as Shaun Kelly drove his Ford Ranger out of Fade Street and onto South Great George’s Street. He knocked them down.

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Alicia was dragged under the pick-up-style SUV.

TheJounral. ie reported that “Mr Avril banged on the window of the vehicle shouting at it to stop.” Of course, this sentence itself is car brain. He was looking for the driver, Kelly, to stop.

Alicia died in hospital days later.

33-year-old Kelly of Thornhill Gardens, Celbridge, Kildare, was convicted of careless driving causing the death of the French woman. He was given a wholly suspended sentence and only a driving ban for a year. The maximum sentence is imprisonment for up to 2 years or a €10,000 fine, or both.

Before I go any further, I want to express my sympathy to Alicia’s partner, family and friends and express my deep sorrow and shame that the Irish justice system hasn’t provided justice for the careless driving that killed her.

The judge in this case, Judge Martin Nolan, referred to this as a moment of inattentiveness. He said, “It seems to me he was guilty of human failure on the night… he did not… notice the couple crossing the street when he should have.”

Nolan, in a moment of shocking ‘car brain‘, absolved the driver of any wrongdoing and sent a strong signal to drivers that you can make mistakes, take lives and carry on — Shur, couldn’t it happen to any of us?

This case has utterly failed to comment on the role of the vehicle, and in doing so, it’s just another collective shrug to road safety. It’s like we have these car brain responses on repeat: These things happen. It’s very sad. Nothing could be done. It was a freak accident.

How can causing the death of a person be treated so casually? And if a moment of inattentiveness can kill, then we need to have a grown-up conversation about driver responsibility, road design, and pedestrian priority but also the vehicle type itself, in this case, a Ford Ranger SUV.

A week before Alicia was killed, I commented how I noticed an increase in SUVs in the city. This clip below shows the horrifying reality that someone driving one of these could easily run over a pedestrian, even at slow speeds, due to their significant blind spots.

And whatever chance you have of being seen, that chance rapidly diminishes the shorter you are. No amount of Hivis will make what’s in the enormous blindspot visible.

If you can cause death so easily, then the opportunity for this to happen should be minimised by reducing the number of these vehicles on our roads. And does it even make sense that a regular driving licence covers driving such a vehicle?

Whenever there are collisions involving SUVs and vulnerable road users, many people, including myself, wonder out loud when we are to recognise the heightened risk of such vehicles, especially in urban environments. But we are usually told, “Now is not the time”!

But when is the right time? If people are asked to consider limitations on such vehicles without the context of the horrific consequences, it’s harder to fully appreciate the problem. SUVs are more deadly to pedestrians, especially children.

SUV and SUV pickup trucks aren’t just more lethal when they hit pedestrians, but they are also much more likely to hit pedestrians- especially when they are turning. This is due to their larger A-pillars, which create a wider blindspot.

Some SUVs have a high NCAP safety rating, some even scoring higher under pedestrian safety than standard vehicles. Well, you might be surprised to find out how utterly flawed the tests are. I posted a Twitter thread on that last year.

SUVs are heavier and more powerful, and their potential for destruction is huge. No one knows when they might have a medical emergency when driving, but I do know I wouldn’t want to be driving something like this if it happened.

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  1. The cavalier attitude of this judge is disgusting, perhaps If the victim was a loved one of his he’d be singing a different tune, ridiculous. My 14 year old brother Brian was run over and killed by a lorry when I was 6 years old it was so destructive to my family my mom and dad never recovered. My condolences to the family.

  2. A child cyclist
    was killed at a pedestrian crossing in carrigaline (by an SUV) a few months ago.i’ve no Idea how the driver was dealt with but I would expect a similarly unsatisfactory response.there is way too many of these dirty,monster trucks on the roads


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