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Assemblymember Ward Introduces Bill to Study Relationship Between Vehicle Size and Fatalities

For immediate release:
Victims' advocate Laura Keenan speaks at the press conference for AB 251.

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Pedestrian fatalities reached a four-decade high in 2020, with California having the most pedestrian fatalities in the nation. Simultaneously, vehicles have been steadily increasing in size and weight since the 1980s, with some models now weighing several thousand pounds. Assemblymember Ward and Senator Scott Wiener have introduced AB 251, which would direct the California Transportation Commission to study the relationship between vehicle size and injuries to vulnerable road users. The bill would also study the costs and benefits of imposing a vehicle weight fee, as well as how those funds could be used to improve safety features on roads. 

"We need to understand the factors that contribute to pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and vehicle weight is an important piece of that puzzle," said Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego). "By studying the correlation between vehicle weight and pedestrian injuries, we can develop policies that will help keep pedestrians safe on our roads.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, on average, a pedestrian was killed every 81 minutes and injured every 10 minutes in traffic crashes in 2020. Additionally, pedestrian deaths accounted for 17% of all traffic fatalities and 2% of all people injured in traffic crashes. Though their designs have changed considerably over the past two decades, late-model SUVs are more likely to kill pedestrians than cars, according to another study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

“For decades, car manufacturers have increased the average size and weight of their vehicles without any pushback,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “Our roads have suffered the consequences, and so have pedestrians and cyclists. I am confident this task force will make clear that bigger cars lead to deadlier accidents, and that we need to do more to protect vulnerable road users.”

At least 13 states, including Florida, New York, Hawaii, North and South Dakota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey charge weight-based registration fees for vehicles, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. AB 251 is supported by safety advocates as an important step towards improving pedestrian and cyclist safety.

"We applaud Assemblymember Ward for taking action on this increasingly urgent issue,” said Marc Vukcevich, co-director of state policy with Streets For All“Pedestrian safety is a matter of life and death, and we need to do everything we can to protect vulnerable road users. We need a society where our children can feel safe playing outside — not threatened by cars too heavy to stop safely.”