Berlin horror crash prompts growing calls to ban SUVs from German cities

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Berlin horror crash prompts growing calls to ban SUVs from German cities
A vigil was set up for the victims of Friday's accident in which an SUV drove into a sidewalk, killing four people. Photo: DPA

After four people were killed in Berlin on Friday evening, German politicians are demanding regulations to keep large SUVs (sport utility vehicles) out of inner cities.


"We need an upper limit for large SUVs in city centres,” said Oliver Krischner, the deputy chairman of the Green parliamentary group, to the Tagesspiegel on Monday. "The best solution would be a federal regulation that would allow cities to impose certain size limits.”

The debate comes after a 42-year-old man driving a heavy Porsche SUV killed four pedestrians, including a three-year-old boy, and injured five others, after veering onto a sidewalk near the intersection of Invalidenstraße and Ackerstraße in Berlin-Mitte.

Following the incident, several politicians and traffic experts called into question the rising popularity of the vehicles - characterized by their broad shape and several off-road features - in Germany, and if they should be better regulated.

This year over a million SUVs will be newly registered in the country for the first time, writes Tagesspiegel, and will make up over a third of the market share for cars.

"Cars need ever wider parking spaces in cities where space is becoming increasingly scarce,” said Krischer. “They are a particular danger to pedestrians and cyclists. There is an urgent need for a debate on how big the cars that drive around our inner cities should still be.”

Jürgen Resch, Managing Director of Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German Environment Aid), said that "easy to implement" measures to limit SUVs in cities should be taken.

There should be either a city toll imposed on large cars entering inner cities, a parking ban, or significantly increased parking fees for the vehicles, he told the newspaper.

A shock incident on Friday

Berlin police are still investigating the exact cause of Friday's accident, and have ruled out malintent, reported the Tagesspiegel.

It is thought that the driver could have had a medical emergency, such as an epileptic seizure according to the latest police findings, causing him to accelerate at a fast speed.

According to local residents, the SUV drove past a stationary cue of cars at the traffic lights very quickly before driving into the sidewalk.

The car bent a traffic light mast and several bollards, broke through a construction fence and only came to a halt on a building site.

On Saturday evening, around 500 people came to a vigil at the Invalidenstraße/Ackerstraße intersection. Also on Sunday, passers-by dropped candles, flowers and pictures at the scene of the accident. 

Following the accident, there are no more traffic lights at the intersection, and police controlled traffic as of Monday morning. 

The traffic lights will soon be repaired, and as of late Monday morning a temporary light was being set up where the accident occurred.

Are SUVs more dangerous than other cars?

The incident, which police plan to investigate further through creating a 3D model of the situation, sparked a mixed debate about whether SUVs themselves pose a risk to public safety.

 "We have to analyze how this terrible accident could have happened before we can draw any consequences,” said Traffic Senator Regine Günther of the Green Party.

The Berlin chapter of Alternative for Germany (AfD) tweeted that the incident was being co-opted by "car haters" for political purposes.

Others pointed out that different factors behind the accident, such as the SUV's speed, also needed to be examined.

"You can't just say: SUV is basically more dangerous than [other types of vehicles]," accident researcher Siegfried Brockmann from the Gesamtverband der Deutschen Versicherungswirtschaft (Association of the German Insurance Industry) told DPA.

Speed and the type of collision would have more influence than weight, he added. In the Berlin incident, however, the traffic light mast might have stopped a smaller car.

"Such tank-like cars don't belong in the city,” said Stephan von Dassel, district mayor of Berlin-Mitte at the weekend, adding that even a small driving mistake in one poses a danger to people’s lives.


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Anonymous 2019/09/10 01:06
SUVs are no more dangerous than any other vehicle. The driver is the responsible party. I personally find it easier to drive a large vehicle like a bus or truck than a car. Politicians scream every time anything goes wrong just to get attention. They should be ignored. Blaming the SUV is like blaming the gun when someone is killed. It ain't the SUV and it ain't the gun. It is the person handling them.

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