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Wednesday, January 8th, 2003

urban assault vehicles

SUVs: you either own one, or you hate them. To anyone who has no opinion, I extend an invitation to sprout a backbone. Take a stand! It’s good for your circulation, or pancreas. One of those.

I am personally against SUVs for these reasons: they are the least fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, and therefore responsible for a disproportionately large percentage of the pollution and environmental toxins generated by automobiles; therefore these vehicles are poisoning me. They purport to be safe, but in fact are less safe in some respects (e.g. single-vehicle rollovers) than standard passenger vehicles; therefore they represent a victory of marketing over common sense, which always gets me down. They’re difficult to see around on the road, making driving less safe for others. They sit higher than passenger cars, which reduces the surviveability of collisions for anyone in a regular car who hits an SUV. (While in general I’m not against allowing citizens with means to fortify their environments against perceived risks, I do not condone any such measures at the expense of the neighbors’ safety. So, go ahead, build a bomb shelter if it makes you feel better, but don’t install an electric perimeter fence on my property line, where my family might bump into it.)

In America, automobiles are used for much more than personal transportation. Big cars are practical in some cases, and required in others. Moreover, American society embraces the right of its members to express their individuality by purchasing fancy cars.

But it seems unusual for society to accept such a destructive expression of individuality. I can think of a few examples of self-destructive behaviors that are legal but restricted — restricted specifically to not endanger people in the vicinity of the person who has decided to risk his or her health or safety in pursuit of individual expression. One: drinking is legal, but drunk driving is not. Two: smoking is legal, but (in California) not in any public area. I think SUV driving should be treated the same as alcohol and cigarettes: legal but restricted. Maybe that will be a new business model for when the oil executives leave the White House… offroad parks where citizens can safely exercise their rights to drive big-ass trucks without endangering the rest of the population.

The inspiration for today’s rant was this story in the Chronicle: New TV commercials link gas-guzzling SUVs to terrorism funding. The ads were created by the Detroit Project, aka http://www.americansforfuelefficientcars.org/, whose website currently contains the two commercials in question.

I’ve just watched them. They’re not brilliant. I guess I should not have expected too much from the creative team whose mighty grasp of form-over-function saddled us with “Got Milk?” Still, I like the concept, eloquently summarized by Arianna Huffington in her introduction: “Why not turn the tables and adopt the same tactics the administration was using in the drug war to point out the much more credible link between driving SUVs and our national security?”


Tags:
posted to channel: Automotive
updated: 2005-03-08 10:25:17

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