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slablizard


Dec 21, 2006, 3:43 PM
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SUVs ARE Safe..no wait...
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January 12, 2004
COMMERCE AND CULTURE

How the S.U.V. ran over automotive safety.

1.

In the summer of 1996, the Ford Motor Company began building the Expedition, its new, full-sized S.U.V., at the Michigan Truck Plant, in the Detroit suburb of Wayne. The Expedition was essentially the F-150 pickup truck with an extra set of doors and two more rows of seats—and the fact that it was a truck was critical. Cars have to meet stringent fuel-efficiency regulations. Trucks don't. The handling and suspension and braking of cars have to be built to the demanding standards of drivers and passengers. Trucks only have to handle like, well, trucks. Cars are built with what is called unit-body construction. To be light enough to meet fuel standards and safe enough to meet safety standards, they have expensive and elaborately engineered steel skeletons, with built-in crumple zones to absorb the impact of a crash. Making a truck is a lot more rudimentary. You build a rectangular steel frame. The engine gets bolted to the front. The seats get bolted to the middle. The body gets lowered over the top. The result is heavy and rigid and not particularly safe. But it's an awfully inexpensive way to build an automobile. Ford had planned to sell the Expedition for thirty-six thousand dollars, and its best estimate was that it could build one for twenty-four thousand—which, in the automotive industry, is a terrifically high profit margin. Sales, the company predicted, weren't going to be huge. After all, how many Americans could reasonably be expected to pay a twelve-thousand-dollar premium for what was essentially a dressed-up truck? But Ford executives decided that the Expedition would be a highly profitable niche product. They were half right. The "highly profitable" part turned out to be true. Yet, almost from the moment Ford's big new S.U.V.s rolled off the assembly line in Wayne, there was nothing "niche" about the Expedition.

Ford had intended to split the assembly line at the Michigan Truck Plant between the Expedition and the Ford F-150 pickup. But, when the first flood of orders started coming in for the Expedition, the factory was entirely given over to S.U.V.s. The orders kept mounting. Assembly-line workers were put on sixty- and seventy-hour weeks. Another night shift was added. The plant was now running twenty-four hours a day, six days a week. Ford executives decided to build a luxury version of the Expedition, the Lincoln Navigator. They bolted a new grille on the Expedition, changed a few body panels, added some sound insulation, took a deep breath, and charged forty-five thousand dollars—and soon Navigators were flying out the door nearly as fast as Expeditions. Before long, the Michigan Truck Plant was the most profitable of Ford's fifty-three assembly plants. By the late nineteen-nineties, it had become the most profitable factory of any industry in the world. In 1998, the Michigan Truck Plant grossed eleven billion dollars, almost as much as McDonald's made that year. Profits were $3. 7 billion. Some factory workers, with overtime, were making two hundred thousand dollars a year. The demand for Expeditions and Navigators was so insatiable that even when a blizzard hit the Detroit region in January of 1999—burying the city in snow, paralyzing the airport, and stranding hundreds of cars on the freeway—Ford officials got on their radios and commandeered parts bound for other factories so that the Michigan Truck Plant assembly line wouldn't slow for a moment. The factory that had begun as just another assembly plant had become the company's crown jewel.

In the history of the automotive industry, few things have been quite as unexpected as the rise of the S.U.V. Detroit is a town of engineers, and engineers like to believe that there is some connection between the success of a vehicle and its technical merits. But the S.U.V. boom was like Apple's bringing back the Macintosh, dressing it up in colorful plastic, and suddenly creating a new market. It made no sense to them. Consumers said they liked four-wheel drive. But the overwhelming majority of consumers don't need four-wheel drive. S.U.V. buyers said they liked the elevated driving position. But when, in focus groups, industry marketers probed further, they heard things that left them rolling their eyes. As Keith Bradsher writes in "High and Mighty"—perhaps the most important book about Detroit since Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed"—what consumers said was "If the vehicle is up high, it's easier to see if something is hiding underneath or lurking behind it. " Bradsher brilliantly captures the mixture of bafflement and contempt that many auto executives feel toward the customers who buy their S.U.V.s. Fred J. Schaafsma, a top engineer for General Motors, says, "Sport-utility owners tend to be more like 'I wonder how people view me,' and are more willing to trade off flexibility or functionality to get that. " According to Bradsher, internal industry market research concluded that S.U.V.s tend to be bought by people who are insecure, vain, self-centered, and self-absorbed, who are frequently nervous about their marriages, and who lack confidence in their driving skills. Ford's S.U.V. designers took their cues from seeing "fashionably dressed women wearing hiking boots or even work boots while walking through expensive malls. " Toyota's top marketing executive in the United States, Bradsher writes, loves to tell the story of how at a focus group in Los Angeles "an elegant woman in the group said that she needed her full-sized Lexus LX 470 to drive up over the curb and onto lawns to park at large parties in Beverly Hills. " One of Ford's senior marketing executives was even blunter: "The only time those S.U.V.s are going to be off-road is when they miss the driveway at 3 a. m. "

The truth, underneath all the rationalizations, seemed to be that S.U.V. buyers thought of big, heavy vehicles as safe: they found comfort in being surrounded by so much rubber and steel. To the engineers, of course, that didn't make any sense, either: if consumers really wanted something that was big and heavy and comforting, they ought to buy minivans, since minivans, with their unit-body construction, do much better in accidents than S.U.V.s. (In a thirty-five m.p.h. crash test, for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade—the G.M. counterpart to the Lincoln Navigator—has a sixteen-per-cent chance of a life-threatening head injury, a twenty-per-cent chance of a life-threatening chest injury, and a thirty-five-per-cent chance of a leg injury. The same numbers in a Ford Windstar minivan—a vehicle engineered from the ground up, as opposed to simply being bolted onto a pickup-truck frame—are, respectively, two per cent, four per cent, and one per cent. ) But this desire for safety wasn't a rational calculation. It was a feeling. Over the past decade, a number of major automakers in America have relied on the services of a French-born cultural anthropologist, G. Clotaire Rapaille, whose speciality is getting beyond the rational—what he calls "cortex"—impressions of consumers and tapping into their deeper, "reptilian" responses. And what Rapaille concluded from countless, intensive sessions with car buyers was that when S.U.V. buyers thought about safety they were thinking about something that reached into their deepest unconscious. "The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give," Rapaille told me. "There should be air bags everywhere. Then there's this notion that you need to be up high. That's a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I'm safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That's why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it's soft, and if I'm high, then I feel safe. It's amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cupholders it has. " During the design of Chrysler's PT Cruiser, one of the things Rapaille learned was that car buyers felt unsafe when they thought that an outsider could easily see inside their vehicles. So Chrysler made the back window of the PT Cruiser smaller. Of course, making windows smaller—and thereby reducing visibility—makes driving more dangerous, not less so. But that's the puzzle of what has happened to the automobile world: feeling safe has become more important than actually being safe.

2.

One day this fall, I visited the automobile-testing center of Consumers Union, the organization that publishes Consumer Reports. It is tucked away in the woods, in south-central Connecticut, on the site of the old Connecticut Speedway. The facility has two skid pads to measure cornering, a long straightaway for braking tests, a meandering "handling" course that winds around the back side of the track, and an accident-avoidance obstacle course made out of a row of orange cones. It is headed by a trim, white-haired Englishman named David Champion, who previously worked as an engineer with Land Rover and with Nissan. On the day of my visit, Champion set aside two vehicles: a silver 2003 Chevrolet TrailBlazer—an enormous five-thousand-pound S.U.V.—and a shiny blue two-seater Porsche Boxster convertible.

We started with the TrailBlazer. Champion warmed up the Chevrolet with a few quick circuits of the track, and then drove it hard through the twists and turns of the handling course. He sat in the bucket seat with his back straight and his arms almost fully extended, and drove with practiced grace: every movement smooth and relaxed and unhurried. Champion, as an engineer, did not much like the TrailBlazer. "Cheap interior, cheap plastic," he said, batting the dashboard with his hand. "It's a little bit heavy, cumbersome. Quiet. Bit wallowy, side to side. Doesn't feel that secure. Accelerates heavily. Once it gets going, it's got decent power. Brakes feel a bit spongy. " He turned onto the straightaway and stopped a few hundred yards from the obstacle course.

Measuring accident avoidance is a key part of the Consumers Union evaluation. It's a simple setup. The driver has to navigate his vehicle through two rows of cones eight feet wide and sixty feet long. Then he has to steer hard to the left, guiding the vehicle through a gate set off to the side, and immediately swerve hard back to the right, and enter a second sixty-foot corridor of cones that are parallel to the first set. The idea is to see how fast you can drive through the course without knocking over any cones. "It's like you're driving down a road in suburbia," Champion said. "Suddenly, a kid on a bicycle veers out in front of you. You have to do whatever it takes to avoid the kid. But there's a tractor-trailer coming toward you in the other lane, so you've got to swing back into your own lane as quickly as possible. That's the scenario. "

Champion and I put on helmets. He accelerated toward the entrance to the obstacle course. "We do the test without brakes or throttle, so we can just look at handling," Champion said. "I actually take my foot right off the pedals. " The car was now moving at forty m.p.h. At that speed, on the smooth tarmac of the raceway, the TrailBlazer was very quiet, and we were seated so high that the road seemed somehow remote. Champion entered the first row of cones. His arms tensed. He jerked the car to the left. The TrailBlazer's tires squealed. I was thrown toward the passenger-side door as the truck's body rolled, then thrown toward Champion as he jerked the TrailBlazer back to the right. My tape recorder went skittering across the cabin. The whole maneuver had taken no more than a few seconds, but it felt as if we had been sailing into a squall. Champion brought the car to a stop. We both looked back: the TrailBlazer had hit the cone at the gate. The kid on the bicycle was probably dead. Champion shook his head. "It's very rubbery. It slides a lot. I'm not getting much communication back from the steering wheel. It feels really ponderous, clumsy. I felt a little bit of tail swing. "

I drove the obstacle course next. I started at the conservative speed of thirty-five m.p.h. I got through cleanly. I tried again, this time at thirty-eight m.p.h., and that small increment of speed made a dramatic difference. I made the first left, avoiding the kid on the bicycle. But, when it came time to swerve back to avoid the hypothetical oncoming eighteen-wheeler, I found that I was wrestling with the car. The protests of the tires were jarring. I stopped, shaken. "It wasn't going where you wanted it to go, was it?" Champion said. "Did you feel the weight pulling you sideways? That's what the extra weight that S.U.V.s have tends to do. It pulls you in the wrong direction. " Behind us was a string of toppled cones. Getting the TrailBlazer to travel in a straight line, after that sudden diversion, hadn't been easy. "I think you took out a few pedestrians," Champion said with a faint smile.

Next up was the Boxster. The top was down. The sun was warm on my forehead. The car was low to the ground; I had the sense that if I dangled my arm out the window my knuckles would scrape on the tarmac. Standing still, the Boxster didn't feel safe: I could have been sitting in a go-cart. But when I ran it through the handling course I felt that I was in perfect control. On the straightaway, I steadied the Boxster at forty-five m.p.h., and ran it through the obstacle course. I could have balanced a teacup on my knee. At fifty m.p.h., I navigated the left and right turns with what seemed like a twitch of the steering wheel. The tires didn't squeal. The car stayed level. I pushed the Porsche up into the mid-fifties. Every cone was untouched. "Walk in the park!" Champion exclaimed as we pulled to a stop.

Most of us think that S.U.V.s are much safer than sports cars. If you asked the young parents of America whether they would rather strap their infant child in the back seat of the TrailBlazer or the passenger seat of the Boxster, they would choose the TrailBlazer. We feel that way because in the TrailBlazer our chances of surviving a collision with a hypothetical tractor-trailer in the other lane are greater than they are in the Porsche. What we forget, though, is that in the TrailBlazer you're also much more likely to hit the tractor-trailer because you can't get out of the way in time. In the parlance of the automobile world, the TrailBlazer is better at "passive safety. " The Boxster is better when it comes to "active safety," which is every bit as important.

Consider the set of safety statistics compiled by Tom Wenzel, a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California, and Marc Ross, a physicist at the University of Michigan. The numbers are expressed in fatalities per million cars, both for drivers of particular models and for the drivers of the cars they hit. (For example, in the first case, for every million Toyota Avalons on the road, forty Avalon drivers die in car accidents every year, and twenty people die in accidents involving Toyota Avalons. ) The numbers below have been rounded:


Make/Model Type Driver
Deaths Other
Deaths Total
Toyota Avalon
large 40 20 60
Chrysler Town & Country
minivan 31 36 67
Toyota Camry
mid-size 41 29 70
Volkswagen Jetta
subcompact 47 23 70
Ford Windstar
minivan 37 35 72
Nissan Maxima
mid-size 53 26 79
Honda Accord
mid-size 54 27 82
Chevrolet Venture
minivan 51
34
85

Buick Century
mid-size 70 23 93
Subaru Legacy/Outback
compact
74 24 98
Mazda 626
compact 70 29 99
Chevrolet Malibu
mid-size 71 34 105
Chevrolet Suburban
S.U.V. 46 59 105
Jeep Grand Cherokee
S.U.V. 61 44 106
Honda Civic
subcompact 84 25 109
Toyota Corolla
subcompact 81 29 110
Ford Expedition
S.U.V. 55 57 112
GMC Jimmy
S.U.V. 76 39 114
Ford Taurus
mid-size 78 39 117
Nissan Altima
compact 72 49 121
Mercury Marquis
large 80 43 123
Nissan Sentra
subcompact 95 34 129
Toyota 4Runner
S.U.V. 94 43 137
Chevrolet Tahoe
S.U.V. 68 74 141
Dodge Stratus
mid-size 103 40 143
Lincoln Town Car
large 100 47 147
Ford Explorer
S.U.V. 88 60 148
Pontiac Grand Am
compact 118 39 157
Toyota Tacoma
pickup 111 59 171
Chevrolet Cavalier
subcompact 146 41 186
Dodge Neon
subcompact 161 39 199
Pontiac Sunfire
subcompact 158 44 202
Ford F-Series
pickup 110 128 238

Are the best performers the biggest and heaviest vehicles on the road? Not at all. Among the safest cars are the midsize imports, like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. Or consider the extraordinary performance of some subcompacts, like the Volkswagen Jetta. Drivers of the tiny Jetta die at a rate of just forty-seven per million, which is in the same range as drivers of the five-thousand-pound Chevrolet Suburban and almost half that of popular S.U.V. models like the Ford Explorer or the GMC Jimmy. In a head-on crash, an Explorer or a Suburban would crush a Jetta or a Camry. But, clearly, the drivers of Camrys and Jettas are finding a way to avoid head-on crashes with Explorers and Suburbans. The benefits of being nimble—of being in an automobile that's capable of staying out of trouble—are in many cases greater than the benefits of being big.

I had another lesson in active safety at the test track when I got in the TrailBlazer with another Consumers Union engineer, and we did three emergency-stopping tests, taking the Chevrolet up to sixty m.p.h. and then slamming on the brakes. It was not a pleasant exercise. Bringing five thousand pounds of rubber and steel to a sudden stop involves lots of lurching, screeching, and protesting. The first time, the TrailBlazer took 146. 2 feet to come to a halt, the second time 151. 6 feet, and the third time 153. 4 feet. The Boxster can come to a complete stop from sixty m.p.h. in about 124 feet. That's a difference of about two car lengths, and it isn't hard to imagine any number of scenarios where two car lengths could mean the difference between life and death.

3.

The S.U.V. boom represents, then, a shift in how we conceive of safety—from active to passive. It's what happens when a larger number of drivers conclude, consciously or otherwise, that the extra thirty feet that the TrailBlazer takes to come to a stop don't really matter, that the tractor-trailer will hit them anyway, and that they are better off treating accidents as inevitable rather than avoidable. "The metric that people use is size," says Stephen Popiel, a vice-president of Millward Brown Goldfarb, in Toronto, one of the leading automotive market-research firms. "The bigger something is, the safer it is. In the consumer's mind, the basic equation is, If I were to take this vehicle and drive it into this brick wall, the more metal there is in front of me the better off I'll be. "

This is a new idea, and one largely confined to North America. In Europe and Japan, people think of a safe car as a nimble car. That's why they build cars like the Jetta and the Camry, which are designed to carry out the driver's wishes as directly and efficiently as possible. In the Jetta, the engine is clearly audible. The steering is light and precise. The brakes are crisp. The wheelbase is short enough that the car picks up the undulations of the road. The car is so small and close to the ground, and so dwarfed by other cars on the road, that an intelligent driver is constantly reminded of the necessity of driving safely and defensively. An S.U.V. embodies the opposite logic. The driver is seated as high and far from the road as possible. The vehicle is designed to overcome its environment, not to respond to it. Even four-wheel drive, seemingly the most beneficial feature of the S.U.V., serves to reinforce this isolation. Having the engine provide power to all four wheels, safety experts point out, does nothing to improve braking, although many S.U.V. owners erroneously believe this to be the case. Nor does the feature necessarily make it safer to turn across a slippery surface: that is largely a function of how much friction is generated by the vehicle's tires. All it really does is improve what engineers call tracking—that is, the ability to accelerate without slipping in perilous conditions or in deep snow or mud. Champion says that one of the occasions when he came closest to death was a snowy day, many years ago, just after he had bought a new Range Rover. "Everyone around me was slipping, and I was thinking, Yeahhh. And I came to a stop sign on a major road, and I was driving probably twice as fast as I should have been, because I could. I had traction. But I also weighed probably twice as much as most cars. And I still had only four brakes and four tires on the road. I slid right across a four-lane road. " Four-wheel drive robs the driver of feedback. "The car driver whose wheels spin once or twice while backing out of the driveway knows that the road is slippery," Bradsher writes. "The SUV driver who navigates the driveway and street without difficulty until she tries to brake may not find out that the road is slippery until it is too late. " Jettas are safe because they make their drivers feel unsafe. S.U.V.s are unsafe because they make their drivers feel safe. That feeling of safety isn't the solution; it's the problem.

4.

Perhaps the most troublesome aspect of S.U.V. culture is its attitude toward risk. "Safety, for most automotive consumers, has to do with the notion that they aren't in complete control," Popiel says. "There are unexpected events that at any moment in time can come out and impact them—an oil patch up ahead, an eighteen-wheeler turning over, something falling down. People feel that the elements of the world out of their control are the ones that are going to cause them distress. "

Of course, those things really aren't outside a driver's control: an alert driver, in the right kind of vehicle, can navigate the oil patch, avoid the truck, and swerve around the thing that's falling down. Traffic-fatality rates vary strongly with driver behavior. Drunks are 7. 6 times more likely to die in accidents than non-drinkers. People who wear their seat belts are almost half as likely to die as those who don't buckle up. Forty-year-olds are ten times less likely to get into accidents than sixteen-year-olds. Drivers of minivans, Wenzel and Ross's statistics tell us, die at a fraction of the rate of drivers of pickup trucks. That's clearly because minivans are family cars, and parents with children in the back seat are less likely to get into accidents. Frank McKenna, a safety expert at the University of Reading, in England, has done experiments where he shows drivers a series of videotaped scenarios—a child running out the front door of his house and onto the street, for example, or a car approaching an intersection at too great a speed to stop at the red light—and asks people to press a button the minute they become aware of the potential for an accident. Experienced drivers press the button between half a second and a second faster than new drivers, which, given that car accidents are events measured in milliseconds, is a significant difference. McKenna's work shows that, with experience, we all learn how to exert some degree of control over what might otherwise appear to be uncontrollable events. Any conception of safety that revolves entirely around the vehicle, then, is incomplete. Is the Boxster safer than the TrailBlazer? It depends on who's behind the wheel. In the hands of, say, my very respectable and prudent middle-aged mother, the Boxster is by far the safer car. In my hands, it probably isn't. On the open road, my reaction to the Porsche's extraordinary road manners and the sweet, irresistible wail of its engine would be to drive much faster than I should. (At the end of my day at Consumers Union, I parked the Boxster, and immediately got into my own car to drive home. In my mind, I was still at the wheel of the Boxster. Within twenty minutes, I had a two-hundred-and-seventy-one-dollar speeding ticket. ) The trouble with the S.U.V. ascendancy is that it excludes the really critical component of safety: the driver.

In psychology, there is a concept called learned helplessness, which arose from a series of animal experiments in the nineteen-sixties at the University of Pennsylvania. Dogs were restrained by a harness, so that they couldn't move, and then repeatedly subjected to a series of electrical shocks. Then the same dogs were shocked again, only this time they could easily escape by jumping over a low hurdle. But most of them didn't; they just huddled in the corner, no longer believing that there was anything they could do to influence their own fate. Learned helplessness is now thought to play a role in such phenomena as depression and the failure of battered women to leave their husbands, but one could easily apply it more widely. We live in an age, after all, that is strangely fixated on the idea of helplessness: we're fascinated by hurricanes and terrorist acts and epidemics like sars—situations in which we feel powerless to affect our own destiny. In fact, the risks posed to life and limb by forces outside our control are dwarfed by the factors we can control. Our fixation with helplessness distorts our perceptions of risk. "When you feel safe, you can be passive," Rapaille says of the fundamental appeal of the S.U.V. "Safe means I can sleep. I can give up control. I can relax. I can take off my shoes. I can listen to music. " For years, we've all made fun of the middle-aged man who suddenly trades in his sedate family sedan for a shiny red sports car. That's called a midlife crisis. But at least it involves some degree of engagement with the act of driving. The man who gives up his sedate family sedan for an S.U.V. is saying something far more troubling—that he finds the demands of the road to be overwhelming. Is acting out really worse than giving up?

5.

On August 9, 2000, the Bridgestone Firestone tire company announced one of the largest product recalls in American history. Because of mounting concerns about safety, the company said, it was replacing some fourteen million tires that had been used primarily on the Ford Explorer S.U.V. The cost of the recall—and of a follow-up replacement program initiated by Ford a year later—ran into billions of dollars. Millions more were spent by both companies on fighting and settling lawsuits from Explorer owners, who alleged that their tires had come apart and caused their S.U.V.s to roll over. In the fall of that year, senior executives from both companies were called to Capitol Hill, where they were publicly berated. It was the biggest scandal to hit the automobile industry in years. It was also one of the strangest. According to federal records, the number of fatalities resulting from the failure of a Firestone tire on a Ford Explorer S.U.V., as of September, 2001, was two hundred and seventy-one. That sounds like a lot, until you remember that the total number of tires supplied by Firestone to the Explorer from the moment the S.U.V. was introduced by Ford, in 1990, was fourteen million, and that the average life span of a tire is forty-five thousand miles. The allegation against Firestone amounts to the claim that its tires failed, with fatal results, two hundred and seventy-one times in the course of six hundred and thirty billion vehicle miles. Manufacturers usually win prizes for failure rates that low. It's also worth remembering that during that same ten-year span almost half a million Americans died in traffic accidents. In other words, during the nineteen-nineties hundreds of thousands of people were killed on the roads because they drove too fast or ran red lights or drank too much. And, of those, a fair proportion involved people in S.U.V.s who were lulled by their four-wheel drive into driving recklessly on slick roads, who drove aggressively because they felt invulnerable, who disproportionately killed those they hit because they chose to drive trucks with inflexible steel-frame architecture, and who crashed because they couldn't bring their five-thousand-pound vehicles to a halt in time. Yet, out of all those fatalities, regulators, the legal profession, Congress, and the media chose to highlight the .0005 per cent that could be linked to an alleged defect in the vehicle.

But should that come as a surprise? In the age of the S.U.V., this is what people worry about when they worry about safety—not risks, however commonplace, involving their own behavior but risks, however rare, involving some unexpected event. The Explorer was big and imposing. It was high above the ground. You could look down on other drivers. You could see if someone was lurking behind or beneath it. You could drive it up on someone's lawn with impunity. Didn't it seem like the safest vehicle in the world?



http://www.gladwell.com/2004/2004_01_12_a_suv.html


snoangel


Dec 21, 2006, 5:06 PM
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Re: [slablizard] SUVs ARE Safe..no wait... [In reply to]
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I think I'll go for a spin in my Honda Civic now. Wink


cervicornis


Dec 21, 2006, 6:04 PM
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Re: [snoangel] SUVs ARE Safe..no wait... [In reply to]
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Jesus Fucking Christ, can't you edit this post down a bit to make your point?


reno


Dec 21, 2006, 6:14 PM
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Re: [cervicornis] SUVs ARE Safe..no wait... [In reply to]
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cervicornis wrote:
Jesus Fucking Christ, can't you edit this post down a bit to make your point?

Easily done:

"People who don't know how to drive should not get behind the wheel of an SUV."

Better?

It's interesting: I've had a large SUV for years... never once have I lost control, hit anyone, anything, or been in any danger. Then, too, I don't talk on the cell phone, apply makeup, eat breakfast, tend to children, or change DVDs while driving. When behind the wheel, I typically focus on.... wait for it.... driving the vehicle.

Yeah, I'm strange that way.


cervicornis


Dec 21, 2006, 6:28 PM
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Re: [reno] SUVs ARE Safe..no wait... [In reply to]
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Thank you.


traddad


Dec 21, 2006, 6:52 PM
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Re: [reno] SUVs ARE Safe..no wait... [In reply to]
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reno wrote:
cervicornis wrote:
Jesus Fucking Christ, can't you edit this post down a bit to make your point?

Easily done:

"People who don't know how to drive should not get behind the wheel of an SUV."

Better?

It's interesting: I've had a large SUV for years... never once have I lost control, hit anyone, anything, or been in any danger. Then, too, I don't talk on the cell phone, apply makeup, eat breakfast, tend to children, or change DVDs while driving. When behind the wheel, I typically focus on.... wait for it.... driving the vehicle.

Yeah, I'm strange that way.
And as an addendum to your post, those drivers who are NOT paying attention are more dangerous if driving a massive SUV.
You're an outlier, Reno. Tough thing about the whole "personal responsibility" schtick: Ya gotta just hope that others take the same pride in their driving, etc as you do. Otherwise you can be safe as you can, right up to the point some Yuppie yoga instructor drives her Escalade through a red light while talking on her cell phone and takes you out. I think there might be a bit less damage if she were driving a Civic....Ya think?


reno


Dec 21, 2006, 7:17 PM
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Re: [traddad] SUVs ARE Safe..no wait... [In reply to]
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traddad wrote:
And as an addendum to your post, those drivers who are NOT paying attention are more dangerous if driving a massive SUV.

And as an addendum to your addendum, those drivers who are NOT paying attention are more dangerous if driving at all than if sitting on their fat asses at home. Or if on a motorcycle than in a car. Or in a pickup truck than a coupe. Or.....

We can do this all day, Traddad. (BTW, when the hell are we going to climb? Kee-rist, we're damn near neighbors.... you just HAVE to drag my sorry ass up something in the Superstitions. And soon.)

In reply to:
You're an outlier, Reno.

Gee, I haven't heard THAT before.

In reply to:
Tough thing about the whole "personal responsibility" schtick: Ya gotta just hope that others take the same pride in their driving, etc as you do. Otherwise you can be safe as you can, right up to the point some Yuppie yoga instructor drives her Escalade through a red light while talking on her cell phone and takes you out. I think there might be a bit less damage if she were driving a Civic....Ya think?

Sure, but her responsibility is the same, regardless. I mean, following your logic, let's force everyone to ride bicycles... not much chance of killing someone on a Cannondale if you broadside them with a Trek, eh?

Merry Christmas, buddy. Or Hannukah, Kwanza, Festivus, whatever.... the spirit is there. And holler.... let's climb.


(This post was edited by reno on Dec 21, 2006, 7:34 PM)


overlord


Dec 21, 2006, 11:32 PM
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drivers cause accidents, not cars. thought the size of the car does matter for those that are on the other end of the equation. being hit with a smart or a hummer is like being tickled by your spouse or hit in the face by tyson.

and americans should wrap their minds aroud 'size doesnt matter'. at lest for car safety. many suvs are much more dangerous because they lack compression zones, have a high center of gravity etc than, say, a small renault clio. not to mention the gas consumption.


edl


Dec 22, 2006, 2:50 AM
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reno wrote:
Sure, but her responsibility is the same, regardless. I mean, following your logic, let's force everyone to ride bicycles... not much chance of killing someone on a Cannondale if you broadside them with a Trek, eh?

But naturally people screw up. When people screw up in SUV's, which is an easier thing to do given the fact that SUV's are more cumbersome, it is more likely that whoever is on the receiving end of that screw up is more likely to get hurt. Isn't that alone reason enough not to want to buy an SUV?

Reno, your logic in the extension of traddads' logic is correct, but I think most people would draw the line at cars vs. bikes, not SUV's vs. cars. Afterall, we are talking about which car to buy, not the safety merits of car collisions vs. bike collisions. More specifically we are talking about when drivers of SUV's fail to avoid accidents and as a result kill other people due to the size/weight difference. Not trying to fling any poo at you for driving an SUV, as you seem like a responsible individual, but just trying to debate the merits of your post. BTW, it's holla, not hollerWink.


reno


Dec 22, 2006, 6:06 AM
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Edl:

OK, there's validity to that concept, I'll grant you that.

But it isn't the SUV itself that is the problem: It's size disparity. A Cooper Mini is going to get the short end of the deal when facing off against a Yukon, sure. No argument.

But a collision between a Yukon and a Tahoe? That's a wash. Same for two Coopers. Or any other two similar size cars.

I saw something on the news a few days ago, regarding small cars and crash safety.... Insurance Institute of America, I think.... did some testing, and found most smaller cars got a "poor" rating for occupant safety. I'll search around, see if I can find it, but the take home point is this: While I'm an altruistic guy and care about my fellow humans as much as the next person, I'm MORE concerned with my safety and that of my family. And if that means I surround them with a couple thousand pounds of Detroit steel, then so be it.

(And, by the way, I'll spell "holler" any damn way I please!) Wink


overlord


Dec 22, 2006, 6:38 AM
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reno wrote:
I saw something on the news a few days ago, regarding small cars and crash safety.... Insurance Institute of America, I think.... did some testing, and found most smaller cars got a "poor" rating for occupant safety.

well, euro ncap (new car assessment programme) disagrees with that statement:

most SUVs (large and small offroaders) get 4 stars at most for ocupant safety, the only exeptions being X5, tuareg and XC90, while new small cars easily get 4 or more (you have some exeptions, but ford focus, WV golf, bmw 1, toyotas, renaults are really safe).

thats because lots of planning went into the desing of those cars, most notably compression zones that deform unpon impact thus reducing the stress on the passenger cabin (that is also carefully planned), special desing of motor space that pushes the motor under the cabins etc., while some SUVs still use outdated construction and so much more energy is transfered to the passengers. a SUV might look better after hitting a wall, but the passegners probably wont. you only get the feeling of being safe because theyre big.

and notice that i didnt even get into airbags, esp and stuff like that.

but still, any car is only as safe as its driver. and sadly, usually innocents pay for mistakes made by others. about 3 weeks ago i was almost pushed off the road by someone who was changing lanes and didnt check the dead angle (or remeber my car being next to hes at the lamps 40m behind us) and about 2 months ago i was overtaking a semi on a highway and some asshole glued himself to my bumber, blinking hes lights, then as i passed the semi, i wanter to move over, but he was already overtaking me on the right (which is forbidden anyway) and i was REALLY lucky (or, better, smart) that i checked my right mirror before changing lanes or it wouldnt have been pretty (i was speeding a bit, he was speeding a lot, he wouldve hit me in the rear right door, probably spun me out, plus the semi...). some ppl really need to learn how to drive safely.


reno


Dec 22, 2006, 6:56 AM
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overlord wrote:
well, euro ncap (new car assessment programme) disagrees with that statement:

most SUVs (large and small offroaders) get 4 stars at most for ocupant safety, the only exeptions being X5, tuareg and XC90, while new small cars easily get 4 or more (you have some exeptions, but ford focus, WV golf, bmw 1, toyotas, renaults are really safe).

Interesting. The report I was referring to is here:

http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr112106.html

In reply to:
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announces 13 vehicles that earn TOP SAFETY PICK awards for 2007. Winners include 4 cars, 7 SUVs, and 2 minivans. This award recognizes vehicles that do the best job of protecting people in front, side, and rear crashes based on ratings in Institute tests. Winners also have to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC).

It'd be interesting to look deeper into the criteria, methods, and results of each, figure out from where the discrepancy comes.

overlord wrote:
but still, any car is only as safe as its driver..... some ppl really need to learn how to drive safely.

That's exactly right.


slablizard


Dec 22, 2006, 8:50 AM
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cervicornis wrote:
Jesus Fucking Christ, can't you edit this post down a bit to make your point?


Sorry, I didn't had much time and it was all interesting...


snoangel


Dec 22, 2006, 9:08 AM
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What we need is a way to keep the morons off the road. Unfortunately that will never happen. Unsure

I'll stick with my fuel efficient, responsive, fun to drive Civic, thank you. Smile

...and I always thought there was a "size matters" component to vehicles. The larger the vehicle, the smaller the penis. Right?? TongueAngelic


dynosore


Dec 22, 2006, 9:37 AM
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I drive a Boxster, and a new GMC pickup. My wife drives a Suburban. It's a toss up, are you more worried about YOU killing yourself, or someone else running into you? My car has the potential to quickly maim and kill me, it begs to go fast. But maturity helps me drive responsibly (well, almost always). When I originally started researching the Boxster I was very surprised to see the death rate is just a little higher than the Suburban, which is about as safe as you get in 2 car accidents. My wife is smart enough to drive it liek a truck, not a racecar, and that dramatically reduces the chance of rollovers, the primary killer in that vehicle.
The truck and SUV "Feel" much safer, but I avoided an accident in my Boxster when someone turned left in front of me without looking this summer. Try full on braking and lane changing in a pickup like that and I would have been upside down. Bottom line, research whatever vehicles it is you are interested in, pick a safe one amongst the bunch, stay of the ^%@$ cell phone, stay sober, and you'll probably make it home alive.


slablizard


Dec 22, 2006, 9:42 AM
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reno wrote:
Edl:

OK, there's validity to that concept, I'll grant you that.

But it isn't the SUV itself that is the problem: It's size disparity. A Cooper Mini is going to get the short end of the deal when facing off against a Yukon, sure. No argument.

But a collision between a Yukon and a Tahoe? That's a wash. Same for two Coopers. Or any other two similar size cars.

I saw something on the news a few days ago, regarding small cars and crash safety.... Insurance Institute of America, I think.... did some testing, and found most smaller cars got a "poor" rating for occupant safety. I'll search around, see if I can find it, but the take home point is this: While I'm an altruistic guy and care about my fellow humans as much as the next person, I'm MORE concerned with my safety and that of my family. And if that means I surround them with a couple thousand pounds of Detroit steel, then so be it.

(And, by the way, I'll spell "holler" any damn way I please!) Wink


If you are a good driver you would never buy an SUV, it would be like a good climber that chooses to climb in fishing boots, doesn't make sense.
Fiollowing your logic then I should buy a Hummer, my neighbor will buy a armoured Hummer to be safER, therefore I have to buy a Bradley Fighting Veichle to protect my family...but then I spot a guy at the stop light with an M1A2 Abrhams twin turbo...

So yes you might feel safer with a 4 ton veichle, but in effect you are not, safety is AVOIDING accidents, driving a car that responds quickly, holds the road and stops promptly...not driving something that wil save you crushing whatever is in your path.

Would you rather run and avoid a pole...or run into the pole relying on the helmet you have on?

Anyway, your choice...just look around, sometimes it's hard to see from a tall veichle.


reno


Dec 22, 2006, 9:49 AM
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slablizard wrote:
If you are a good driver you would never buy an SUV, it would be like a good climber that chooses to climb in fishing boots, doesn't make sense.

Well, I think we have a different definition of "good driver", but leaving that beside for a minute:

When you find a responsive, sporty, stop-on-a-dime car that can tow a two horse trailer and carry a few hundred pounds of saddles, reins, and other gear, let me know.

In reply to:
...an M1A2 Abrhams twin turbo...

They make a convertible model? Wink

In reply to:
...you might feel safer with a 4 ton veichle, but in effect you are not, safety is AVOIDING accidents,...

Indeed. And I'll trust due diligence, awareness, foresight, and planning to avoid accidents rather than rely on lightning quick reflexes and instinctual reactions.

I don't need to drive a sports car to stay aware of my surroundings and be diligent about driving.

Good, safe drivers are good, safe drivers no matter what vehicle they are in. Bad drivers are bad drivers, no matter the vehicle.


slablizard


Dec 22, 2006, 11:24 AM
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reno wrote:

Well, I think we have a different definition of "good driver", but leaving that beside for a minute:

When you find a responsive, sporty, stop-on-a-dime car that can tow a two horse trailer and carry a few hundred pounds of saddles, reins, and other gear, let me know.

In reply to:
...an M1A2 Abrhams twin turbo...

They make a convertible model? Wink



Indeed. And I'll trust due diligence, awareness, foresight, and planning to avoid accidents rather than rely on lightning quick reflexes and instinctual reactions.

I don't need to drive a sports car to stay aware of my surroundings and be diligent about driving.

Good, safe drivers are good, safe drivers no matter what vehicle they are in. Bad drivers are bad drivers, no matter the vehicle.

Well you're right. If you're a good driver you'll be aware, no matter what you drive, and yes I like SUVs too, more the Land Rover kind thou, real off road veichles than an Explorer. With the WRX I am risking more just because it begs you to run, so you have a point there too. One tends to take sides but the point is "Good, safe drivers are good, safe drivers no matter what vehicle they are in. Bad drivers are bad drivers, no matter the vehicle." It's just that a bad driver with a Hummer is much more dangerous than one with a mini.

But as they say...the first and most important safety feature on your car...is you.


(This post was edited by slablizard on Dec 22, 2006, 11:28 AM)


edl


Dec 22, 2006, 1:49 PM
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reno wrote:
But it isn't the SUV itself that is the problem: It's size disparity. A Cooper Mini is going to get the short end of the deal when facing off against a Yukon, sure. No argument.

But a collision between a Yukon and a Tahoe? That's a wash. Same for two Coopers. Or any other two similar size cars.

I saw something on the news a few days ago, regarding small cars and crash safety.... Insurance Institute of America, I think.... did some testing, and found most smaller cars got a "poor" rating for occupant safety.

I would agree with you about the size disparity being the fundamental problem of it all. What I would like to see is SUV's and cars having impact zones that line up better. I think a lot of the problem with the two vehicles getting into an accident is that the SUV's bumper might line up with the passenger cars windows, which I doubt do as good of a job of absorbing force as the cars crumple zones. Also, given the unnecessary nature of 90% of the SUV's out there, I will be glad if/when that fad goes out of style. Keep in mind that before this fad hit problems of impacts between SUV's and cars was much smaller. Also, given the fact that SUV'sa are so inefficient, they will be a welcome absence on the road for a lot of people. You however actually appear to use yours for something, wich is more than I can say for most.

reno wrote:
I'll search around, see if I can find it, but the take home point is this: While I'm an altruistic guy and care about my fellow humans as much as the next person, I'm MORE concerned with my safety and that of my family. And if that means I surround them with a couple thousand pounds of Detroit steel, then so be it.

And thats exactly the problem. One guy makes this choice, then another, then another, and pretty soon SUV's are a huge growing fad. Even if we take the drivers approach to safety, shit still happens, and when cars and SUV's collide, cars are usually on the losing end.

reno wrote:
(And, by the way, I'll spell "holler" any damn way I please!) Wink

Hey, I was just trying to inform you on the real G lifestyle.Tongue


gunkiemike


Dec 22, 2006, 2:21 PM
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reno wrote:

Good, safe drivers are good, safe drivers no matter what vehicle they are in. Bad drivers are bad drivers, no matter the vehicle.

Did you read the OP article? The SUV takes longer to stop and is much worse at avoiding things, with the same trained driver. Give me a good driver AND a good vehicle. Since the former are in limited supply, at least get 'em in a good vehicle. But nnnoooooo, Buffy's putting her make up on in her Escalade. Mad

I honestly can't think of one good reason for 99% of the drivers of SUV's to have SUV's. The guy who asked how to tow his horses may be in the remaining 1%. And then they go and put those "pedestrian killer" tubular frames on the front. WTF?

Anyway, I think all this $3/gallon gas is appropriate reward for the vanities and insecurities of the SUV buyers. And the US automakers are now bleeding red ink for pandering to them. Serves THEM right too. I can't wait for the roads to be returned to sensible cars. Until then, I will be very afraid in our Civic/Corolla/Miata fleet.


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Dec 22, 2006, 2:56 PM
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Well here in the Oz outback an SUV is not so much a preferrential lifestyle vehicle but more a vehicle that fits ones needs. Ok, so I need a vehicle that will carry people as well as all my provisions plus tow a dirty great fishing boat. It must also have a bull bar for those peky kangaroos that jump out haphazardly at you at dawn and dusk. It also needs to have 4wd so that one can get to ones fishing spot.

During the 36 hours of driving necessary to make ones way to ones fishing spot of choice one will become aware that the huge truck that one is believing one is driving is in reality a very small piece of machinery dwarfed by other much larger road trains with 3 and up to 6 huge traliers. One quickly learns to remove oneself from the road to allow these behemoths to pass.

Mind you though one of these same huge road trains came off second best the other day when they failed to give way at a level crossing and the Ghan train slammed into it.

Size is relative.

You talk about a small car coming off worst in a collision with a large SUV as though that makes an argument to remove all SUVs from the road, no it doesn't. It merely means that the accident should be investigated properly and fairly and the lessons learned from that accident should be published for us all to learn from others mistakes.

It is all too simplistic for authorities to blame one particular cause of an accident. Neat and tidy is what they like and simple political answers are what they desire. That will never help anyone. My view is that deeper answers need to be sought in a no blame culture. Sure, if culpable driving is found to be the number one cause then certaunly take the matter to court to determine penalties but by and large we need to explore new and different ways to change peoples behaviour on the roads.


112


Dec 22, 2006, 11:31 PM
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slablizard wrote:
Fiollowing your logic then I should buy a Hummer, my neighbor will buy a armoured Hummer to be safER, therefore I have to buy a Bradley Fighting Veichle to protect my family...but then I spot a guy at the stop light with an M1A2 Abrhams twin turbo...

Man, if I could so aford the the vehicle, not even counting the fuel, I would totally get me one of those 5 ton trucks. I went off-roading in one of those. Impressive! Right over 3 foot tree trunks this truck did go.


JetTeach


Dec 23, 2006, 7:45 AM
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Nice....

I drive an ext cab longbed 2500HD (huge truck) and my wife has driven Suburbans for years. Don't think we are going to change anytime soon. Besides, I can justify BOTH vehicles as a necessity.

I also have an ext cab pickup that can manuever and handle as well as most of the production sports cars out there.


edl


Dec 23, 2006, 9:32 PM
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philbox wrote:
You talk about a small car coming off worst in a collision with a large SUV as though that makes an argument to remove all SUVs from the road, no it doesn't. It merely means that the accident should be investigated properly and fairly and the lessons learned from that accident should be published for us all to learn from others mistakes.

No, Im saying that unless you need an SUV for your lifestyle maybe you should look around for better options.


AngusBeefheart


Dec 24, 2006, 12:27 PM
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if only there were some sort of test that people had to take before they were allowed to drive, maybe issue some sort of license...

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