Monday, April 9, 2012

SUVs: Deadly Yet Irresistible

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SUVs Deadly Yet Irresistible


Imagine driving along in the desert, ahead all that’s in sight is tumbleweeds being tossed in the wind. You look to your left and spot a massive lion racing, struggling to keep up with you. One step on the gas and soon that lion is dissolved in the world of sand kicked up by the tires. Or, it’s a family outing, the children are singing happily in the backseat. All of a sudden a giant grizzly bear emerges from the side of the road. The road morphs into an obstacle course, you swerve trying to prevent from smashing into the trees that come centimeters away from the roof of your vehicle. The bank of water ahead poses as a threat but with ease you drive straight through it. The grizzly bear is now nothing but a sight in the rearview mirror. Do these images sound a little familiar? Maybe its because they fit the plot to almost every sports utility vehicle commercial ever aired on television. It’s always the big shiny red jeep driving through a paved field with beautiful wild flowers surrounding it everywhere. What the commercial fails to show its viewers is the big shiny red jeep flipping over or the beautiful wild flowers dead due to the toxic fumes emitted by the SUVs.


It was not too long ago when I pleaded and begged my parents to purchase a SUV. I was thinking for the future, for when I finally receive my license. I did not want to drive the old beat up car with slogans such as “You don’t need dope to dance”, and “This is your brain on hugs”. I was sick of my mother dropping me off a block away from my destination just so I would not be teased and laughed at by my friends. My prayer came true; my parents purchased a 00 Ford Explorer. I was far beyond ecstatic to know that I would be driving in a “trendy” and “cool” vehicle.


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One may wonder why SUVs are so popular? Sports utility vehicles are definitely the new fad. The public being uneducated about SUVs are attracted to them basically because of their look. The light truck has a rich, posh image to it. The public is very much influenced by image, culture, and competition. Everyone wants to be bigger than the person before him or her. The American culture has a copycat mentally. If the neighbor just brought a brand new Mercedes M-Class, then we must have one too. The image the media sends out about SUVs is that they are the extreme sports utility vehicles for those who prefer an extreme lifestyle. Living on the edge, not knowing what your next adventure will entail definitely summons you to purchase ones of these vehicles. Because, you never know the next time you’ll wake up and have the urge to go kayaking.


Most auto consumers have the idea that because of the SUVs size it is safe. Americans have tendencies to buy things they really do not need and have no knowledge of. As I stated before, my father recently purchased a brand new SUV. Do we live in the mountains? Have we ever had wild animals chasing us? Does he need a SUV for work? All the answers to these questions are no. My family does not need a sports utility vehicle. If SUVs were not so popular would my family own one, probably not. This made me ask my father exactly why he purchased a SUV. He stated it sparked his interest because, “ It was a comfortable ride and has a roomy interior. Also, I like the look that it has. The sight lines are better because you are higher up which makes it safer. Yes, I know about some of the dangers that are included in driving the SUV. I felt dangers evolved from driver abuse. I was blind to the fact that it has such an impact on the environment. I know SUVs are a threat to smaller cars on the road but again like I said danger occurs when you drive recklessly. I know it is a fad or trend, and yes I am following it. It benefits my family and I in the areas of comfort and safety.”


Sports utility vehicles are a hazard to the individuals in the light truck and to the other drivers on roads and highways. The number one concern surrounding the safety of SUVs is the fact that they have a high risk of flipping over. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revealed a scary trend involving SUVs. The ratio of SUVs rolling over compared to regular passenger cars is to 1. The NHTSA reports that in accidents involving a roll over, sports utility vehicles have more than twice the percentage of fatal crashes compared to that of passenger cars. A frightening statistic is that 5 percent of SUV deaths in single vehicle crashes are due to the truck rolling over (the SUV info Link).


One would think if sport utility vehicles are so dangerous and prone to flipping over, the public would be concerned and demand higher and stricter safety standards for this “family car”. The Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA) held a poll which determine that close to 80 percent of SUV owners are concerned about the safely hazards to passenger cars (the SUV info Link). Yes, these people might be concerned about putting other drivers at risk but yet, they still continue to drive their SUVs and hog the road. One would think if so many SUV owners were truly concerned then, they might demand changes.


If in a crash with SUVs, passenger cars do not stand a chance. They are smaller and lower to the ground. SUVs are actually eight inches higher off the ground than regular passenger cars (the SUV info Link). SUVs are seen as bullies on a playground, they are bigger and heavier, but not built any tougher than usual cars. Because of the sports utility vehicles size they are classified as light trucks and therefore do not need to meet the same federal safety standards the passenger cars must meet (Consumer Reports). Thus, automakers get away with producing something more along the lines of a lethal weapon than a SUV. Another factor that contributes to the SUVs` danger is its weight. Drivers and passengers in a car are five more times likely to be injured or killed then a person in a SUV (Consumer Reports). In 16, 5,5 deaths occurred when a SUV struck a car, 81 percent of the killed were occupants of the car (the SUV info Link).


The current SUVs have made some alterations to become safer on the road. Auto companies have repositioned the SUVs` bumpers and frames to make the vehicle more compatible to a car in a crash. Starting with 000 models some SUVs such as the Suburban are 00 pounds lighter than earlier models (Consumer Reports).


Another danger of sports utility vehicles is not directly to humans but to the environment. SUVs are adding to the dangers of global warming. The burning of gasoline emits carbon dioxide, which pollutes the air. A normal passenger car is estimated to emit 54 tons of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime. An SUV is estimated to emit over 100 tons of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime (the SUV info Link). An alarming fact is that the federal law allows SUVs to release disturbing amounts of toxins into the atmosphere. They are allowed to emit 0 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons and 75 percent more nitrogen oxides than the average passenger car. These gases are what cause headaches, nausea, asthma, fatigue, and even lung damage (the SUV info Link).


It was sad to read that once Ford’s attitude toward the safety concerns and fuel anxiety was, “ If we didn’t provide the vehicle, somebody else would. And they wouldn’t provide as responsibly as we do” (Sacramento News and Review). Responsibly- building a car, which is lethal to both people and to the environment, is anything but responsible. In the past year Ford, has announced they will make efforts to decrease the amount of fuel emitted by their vehicle by 5 percent (Time). This is a major step to improve conditions of the environment. No other auto making company has yet to come forth and announced any steps to improve the safety of the vehicles they are producing.


SUVs are extremely popular among teenage drivers. Parents are more likely to purchase a SUV for their child because they feel it is safer then the passenger car (Business Wire). Teenagers are much more likely to get into an accident because they are inexperienced drivers and tend to drive a bit more recklessly than those who have experience. Unfortunately, there is one to many examples of teens driving SUVs being involved in a fatal crash. In California not too long ago, a 16 -year- old boy killed people and injured 8 because he lost control of the SUV he was driving (Business Wire).


The SUV companies are making progress but slowly. SUVs still emit an average of 7 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with each gallon of gasoline used (Time). The redesigned SUVs still weigh about ,0000 more pounds than the leading passenger cars (Consumer Reports). Still with these improvement some still feel, “They suck fuel, almost never go off-road, tend to crush people in smaller cars, roll over easier than a one-legged drunk and pump out enough emissions to kill a chimp” (Sacramento News and Review).


The problem with sports utility vehicles is that the public is unaware of their high risks and dangers. The television commercials never show a person suffering from an asthma attack because he or she has been exposed to high levels of hydrocarbon and the car sales man is never going to say “Come test drive the Excursion, it flips over and emits the highest levels of toxic fumes!” (Time). If this was to happen SUVs would not be the number one selling vehicle on the market right now.


As I stated before I was ecstatic that my family purchased a SUV. I thought, what could be better? My position has altered slightly but not much. Having the knowledge that SUVs are dangerous and pollute the environment, I will be more cautious when in one. However, I know that once I receive my license I will not hesitate to get behind the wheel of my family’s Ford Explorer.





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