“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.
In Berlin an #SUV speeding on the sidewalk killed 4 pedestrians (including a child) the other day.
— Giulio Mattioli (@giulio_mattioli) September 9, 2019
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.
Noch im Laufe des Tages soll eine #Behelfsampel an der Unfallkreuzung in der #Invalidenstrasse aufgestellt werden, sagt @BA_Mitte_Berlin.@JuliusBetschka @Tagesspiegel https://t.co/YacuIasGp5 pic.twitter.com/RnTxs7xjCQ
— Helena Piontek (@fraupiontek) September 9, 2019
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.
++ Lobby-Verein und Grüne nutzen Unfall für Propaganda ++
— AfD Berlin (@AfDBerlin) September 9, 2019
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.