Mr. Meland, Editor
SPORT UTILITY OUTRAGE!
After reading about your Editorial in Electrifying Times inside edition prompted another personal reply. Whenever I see a 110-pound woman strapping a 40 pound child into a 4,000 pound SUV and loading 50 pounds of groceries into a rear compartment large enough to carry eight bales of hay, I wonder if she gives a hoot about that child's future and others at all.
Our society is in such wide-spread denial about what these vehicles do to the environment, to the safety of our roads and highways, and to our balance of trade and dependence on foreign oil, disturbs me far more than any alleged denial we are in over the president's character. Some logical thought processes must take place before those who buy these behemoths, get their bank loans and shell out a down payment. I imagine they go something like this: " The Smiths down the street love theirs and it sure looks cool in the parking lot at the mall. It's probably really comfortable, and it certainly is roomy. It does use a lot of gas, but hey, gas is cheap!!! And my baby and I will certainly be safer encased in 4,000 pounds of steel that we would be in a 1,500 pound sedan." I've noticed that when a person wants something badly enough, the logic entailed in justifying getting it frequently flies in the face of logic.
The logic behind such logic goes like this: "No one else should pollute the air, but it's all right if I do. Those tankers spilling oil onto various pristine coasts have nothing to do with the fact that my personal automobile gets
10 miles per gallon. It's OK if someone else's baby dies because my car is big and theirs is small, as long as me and my baby are safe."
It is ironic that these vehicles are so frequently associated with - or worse, are depicted crashing through the natural world they take part in destroying. One advertisement I find particularly galling plays a soundtrack of Tibet an religious chants and shows a Ford SUV roaring silently through a pristine, road less desert. Another television ad for the Infiniti SUV shows the "gleaming four-by-four splashes through the rocky surf; dark forest rise in the background." The fate of our warming world was probably the farthest thing from the copywriter's mind, but sometimes you find wisdom where you least expect it.
"Careful," the Infiniti ad reads, "you may run out of planet."
It is true that some of these vehicles, like the ultimately yuppie Land Rover, were originally designed for use in rugged wilderness conditions. Most others were originally designed as true utility vehicles. Those in the
delivery business, the building trades, or rescue workers may require such vehicles. This does not justify their use either as off-road joyriding vehicles or as individual suburban or urban transportation.
Ford recently made a small splash by introducing its new SUV, which is even larger than the outrageously over-sized Chevy Suburban. Authoritative sources report that the reason the splash was small is that Ford feared an outcry from environmentalist because of this automobile's atrocious gas mileage and air pollution characteristics.
Fatality statistics have shown that because SUVs are heavier, ride higher and have stiffer frames that absorb less crash energy, they cause more deaths to the occupants of cars that collide with them. A National
Highway and Transportation Safety Agency study found that in head-on collisions between SUVs and cars, five drivers of cars died for each death of an SUV driver. When an SUV struck the side of a car, 30 car
drivers died for each death of an SUV driver.
To an SUV owner, this may prove that his vehicle is safer, but I can't imagine it does much for his conscience to know that when push comes to shove, the other guy, or the other guy's wife or kid, will almost certainly be the loser.
To ease his conscience, I cite a recent Good Morning America segment, which pointed out that SUVs while safer than cars in collisions between the two types of vehicles - to be exact, they are simply more destructive - are four times more likely to roll than standard cars, bringing their overall safety record even more seriously into question. The National Safety Agency will soon require that manufacturers of most SUVs attach prominent
labels to their vehicles warning of the danger of roll-over.
Because most SUVs fall under the classification of "light truck," they have been exempt from many of the safety and environmental standards applicable to cars. As a result, the average SUV not only uses more gasoline - an
average of 15 miles per gallon as opposed to an average of 25 for cars - it pollutes more, by about 30 percent, and, as we have said, it kills more people.
All us baby boomers are ensconced in RV's. The younger set are in SUVs (or will it have escalated to Humvees by then?). I hope the oil prices sore to the levels in Europe. Then we all become aware what is really happening.
Daniel J. Bocek