I think its time to have a bit of a bash on SUVs.
I was driving home from Phillip Island on Saturday and some tosser with his family in a Nissan Patrol with massive bull bars decided to sit on my bumper, as I was only going the speed limit. When he passed he did the same to the next car in front, a small hatch back. It was so obvious that he was out to intimidate passenger cars with his bull-barred monster. Clearly he has a small penis.
Following is a great article I came across this evening:
SUV Killers Beg for Mercy
By: Ted Rall
For more than a decade, citizens who drive normal-size cars have been bullied, poisoned, and murdered by drivers of sport utility vehicles. Now they’re being asked to like it.
“Did My Car Join Al Qaeda?” asks Woody Hochswender in the New York Times. “Where I live, about 100 miles north of New York City, at least half of all the vehicles you see on the road are SUV’s or other light trucks. They make a great deal of sense. This is not just because we have plenty of long, steep driveways and miles and miles of dirt roads.”
“According to their enemies, SUV drivers aren’t just road hogs; they’re also sociopaths who are overcompensating for deep-seated feelings of inferiority. I resent being psychoanalyzed this way. I’m after traction, not dominance, OK?”,” writes Walter Kirn in Time magazine.
The road hog set is up in arms over TV ads that call their souped-up steroidwagons anti-Christian, anti-American, and pro-terrorist. SUV’s have had their windows smashed in Washington, been spray-painted with anti-war slogans in Massachusetts and set ablaze by the lot full in Pennsylvania. Environmental groups sell SUV “tickets”, and bumper stickers that read “As a matter of fact, I do own the road,” encouraging activists to stick them on the gas hogs.
Opponents call SUV’s wasteful, polluting, and dangerous to other drivers. Because these fuel-inefficient leviathans now comprise a quarter of new car sales, and big models like the GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban only get 12 miles per gallon, all of the air-quality improvements made during the 70’s and 80’s have been erased. “But a car’s miles-per-gallon rating is only one measure of fuel efficiency”, argues Hochswender. “Miles driven is another. People who drive light trucks quickly learn not to drive around aimlessly.” He’s wrong. There’s zero evidence that SUV drivers drive fewer miles than other motorists. And even if some have trained themselves to eliminate frivolous miles, then driving a more efficient vehicle those lesser lengths is an opportunity for further improvement. Consider this startling fact: the SUV is the only reason the United States has been unable to comply with the Kyoto Accord on air pollution.
Even more irritating to non-SUV drivers is the sense of being pushed around – and off – the roads by 9,000-pound gorillas. No one needs the results of a formal “crash compatibility” test to tell them that their Toyota Corolla will fair poorly in a close encounter with a Ford Expedition. The fact is you’re more than twice as likely to die in a crash with an SUV than with another sedan. “Four-wheel-drive vehicles allow workers to get to and from their jobs, and parents to transport their children safely to school, sporting events, ballet classes, and the rest”, defends Hochswender. But every SUV added to the traffic on the road decreases the likelihood of someone else’s kids arriving alive at school or ballet class. It’s basic physics, the law of conservation of momentum to be exact. SUV drivers increase their own security at the expense of other drivers.
Ironically, it’s even worse than that. SUV’s not only endanger the occupants of smaller cars – they kill their own drivers in roll-overs at triple the rate of other vehicles, according to Jeffrey Runge, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It’s unfortunate if an SUV driver kills himself, but the real issue is what he does to others.
Granted, no consumer is innocent. The Gap T-shirt you buy at the mall is produced by children toiling under exploitative conditions overseas. Microsoft software is packaged by prisoner slave labor. Of course, if you were truly virtuous you’d skip even that sexy hybrid Prius and its holier-than-thou 50 mpg rating and just bike to work. But it’s hard to argue with Union of Concerned Scientists director Jason Mark’s conclusion that, as socially-responsible purchasing decisions go, SUV’s “represent the worst”.
Short of opening a shooting range next door to a daycare center, buying an SUV is perhaps the single most antisocial act an ordinary American can commit. And as resentment against this egocentrism coalesces into anger, SUV owners are becoming defensive. Kirn again: “Nothing takes the pleasure out of driving like the suspicion that at every four-way stop, someone in a fuel-efficient compact is sneering at my moral deficiencies. I want to scream: ‘But I live on a dirt road! I have a farm! See all the mud on my fenders! I need this rig!'”
What I would scream back, if I met Kirn, would be this: “What did you people do 20 years ago?” Back in the days before SUV’s, farmers drove pick-ups and the rest of us drove cars. The soccer mom with a gaggle of kids drove a low stationwagon or slow minivan. Nowadays, the overwhelming majority of SUV’s are plying our highways and suburban streets. Fewer than 1% will ever be driven off-road.
Why are SUV owners surprised that nobody likes them? Americans have long defined themselves by the cars they drive; is it unreasonable to assume that someone who drives an oversized gas guzzler is a selfish, aggressive lout? People buy SUV’s because they’re imposing, so they can see over smaller cars. Is it shocking that drivers whose sight lines are blocked by these hulking machines, and who are blinded at night by the headlights of great overbearing tailgaters, are resentful?
More and more SUV drivers are coming out of stores to find their vehicles “keyed”, stickered, or worse, and SUV’s are replacing fur coats as the spray paint target of choice. Sure it sucks, but can SUV owners complain? Vandalizing property is a mere misdemeanor next to willfully endangering other people’s lives and hastening the demise of the planet.
“What are we supposed to do now, turn our SUV’s in?” asks Hochswender. Well, yeah. And quit whining because everybody hates you.
Ted Rall is the author of Gas War: The Truth Behind the American Occupation of Afghanistan, an analysis of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline and the motivations behind the war on terrorism. Ordering information is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.