A Grassroots Response to Gregory Hudgins
Although I appreciated Gregory Hudgins calm and articulate defense of his choice to use an SUV to as his primary family vehicle, I have to take issue with a few of the things he mentioned.
1) Gregory said: "We leased a 2001 Ford Expedition with a 5.4L engine and full-on SUV capacity. With proper tire inflation and moderate driving, despite urges to the contrary, we averaged 21.27 mpg."
Kudos to you, Gregory, for keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape, the best thing any of us can do to maintain high fuel efficiency. 21 mpg is indeed very good.
However, what a lot of people are unaware of is that, according to the EPA, SUVs by law can emit 30% more carbon dioxide and 75% more nitrogen oxides per gallon of fuel burned than other passenger vehicles.
So even though your fuel efficiency is as high as some larger passenger cars, you are still producing much more carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides than you would in a car classified as a passenger vehicle.
Also, the number of Americans who live in areas of poor air quality (141 million), has increased 7% in just two years, corresponding to the increase in SUV ownership over the same period, according to the American Lung Association.
2) "As a father of two children, a baby and near five year old, I've no greater priority than their ultimate protection and concern."
Gregory, I applaud your concern for your family, especially when I am all too frequently witness to people who drive with their infants in their laps! However, according to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, SUVs have an average rollover rate of 37%, compared to a rollover rate of 15% for other passenger vehicles.
And, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, SUVs have the SAME driver fatality rate as small cars (!), substantially higher than medium and large sized cars.
And, again citing the NHTSA, SUVs are twice as likely to cause fatalities in a crash as are other vehicles of the same weight.
According to an article in the Washington Monthly Online: "The occupant death rate in SUVs is 6 percent higher than it is for cars--8 percent higher in the largest SUVs. The main reason is that SUVs carry a high risk of rollover; 62 percent of SUV deaths in 2000 occurred in rollover accidents. SUVs don't handle well, so drivers can't respond quickly when the car hits a stretch of uneven pavement or "trips" by scraping a guardrail. Even a small bump in the road is enough to flip an SUV traveling at high speed. On top of that, SUV roofs are not reinforced to protect the occupants against rollover; nor does the government require them to be. "
Have you considered a nice Volvo station wagon? They're incredibly safe vehicles, have excellent mileage, are classified as passenger cars so by law they cannot produce as many emissions per gallon as SUVs are allowed, and would provide as much interior space as your Expedition.
3) "Again, documentation proves that the Expedition is simply an F-150 truck with an enclosed body design."
Yes, essentially what you are driving is a station wagon on a truck chassis. This design is fundamentally flawed, and an example of automobile engineering taking some major backwards steps.
Although I would like to go into more detail on this particular subject, there are simply too many particulars to mention, and since many involve a detailed explanation of engineering concepts and practices used in automobile manufacturing, I will instead direct you to this site: https://home.attbi.com/~eliot_www/suvsuck.html. Here you will find a wealth of information attesting to the inefficiency of the engineering principles used in SUV manufacture.
4) "However, moderate driving seems to elude many drivers of patented gas miser vehicles, ranging from all sub-compacts to anything less than an SUV. Erratic and arrogant driving tactics abound from drivers so anxious to prove how self-righteous they are in the public spectre."
Arrogant and erratic driving abounds from drivers of ALL types of vehicles, and is certainly not limited to the drivers of sub-compacts.
I live in the most affluent neighborhood of my city. It seems that everywhere I look I see SUVs. When you come to a four-way stop in my neighborhood, it seems that the person with the largest, most expensive luxury SUV, has the right-of-way. Especially if they are currently conversing on a cell-phone.
Do not attempt to follow the age old rule of allowing the person to your right the right-of-way. If it is your turn to proceed through the intersection, and there is an SUV driver also waiting, for the sake of your personal safety, you should always assume that this person will come barreling through the intersection, all traffic rules unheeded.
The recent ubiquitousness of Hummers in my neighborhood has left me sick to my stomach, and has confirmed to me that a great number of SUV owners are more interested in the status symbol inherent in owning one, than in the relative safety accorded to them. They drive as if they have a death wish, for everyone else that is.
Now, as I previously mentioned, these types of drivers come in all types of vehicles. But when a smaller car pulls some dangerous driving maneuver on the highway, I am allowed more of an advantage to out-maneuver them, than I would be if the vehicle were an SUV I cannot even SEE around. Certainly, if there were an impact, I would be safer being hit by another mid-sized car than I would be getting smashed by an SUV.
Thus begins the circular argument that perhaps I should buy an SUV as well, to afford myself the same "safety" advantage that an SUV driver has. This logic probably has a great deal to do with an increase in SUV purchases: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
However, here is something interesting about the "profiling" of SUV drivers employed by the very people who sell SUVs. According to market research conducted by the country's leading automakers, SUV buyers tend to be "insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed..." ( from New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher's new book, High and Mighty)
I would not take it so far to suggest that you personally are one of these people, I have met many SUV owners who, like you, cite their children's safety as their dominate motivation for purchasing an SUV.
But do you only care about your own children's safety? Bradsher quotes auto execs who concede that the self-centered lifestyle of SUV buyers is apparent in "their willingness to endanger other motorists so as to achieve small improvements in their personal safety."
The bottom line is, SUVs frequently kill drivers who would have survived impacts with smaller vehicles. Which brings us back to the circular argument. If your advice to me, if I feel my personal safety is threatened given the sheer number of SUVs on the road, is to buy one for my self, then I would have to say that I would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem.
Gregory, do you really NEED an SUV?