SUVs and Sacred Cows

Over in GQ there’s a thread dealing with SUV Safety http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=110371

In order to keep the opinions out of that thread, I’m asking here: Are SUVs in North America the equivalent of Sacred Cows in India?

Lots of people jumping up into an SUV do so because of their supposed safety benefits. There’s an impression that the larger the vehicle you’re driving, the safer you’ll be when you smash into someone else.

But isn’t the trend towards SUVs just another example of that sociological adage “What’s really good for one person can really suck if everyone else does it”? With more people driving SUVs, aren’t you more likely to be injured when you crash into another SUV?

In addition, don’t they actually slow down traffic? I mean, they’re bigger than cars, so you can’t fit as many into a given length of road as cars. As as Cecil pointed out in the classics (link here http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_028b.html) people drive slower when there are more large things around them, so people surrounded by SUVs, even if in one themselves, are slowing down traffic even more.

The behavior of slowing down only holds together as long as people perceive their speed to be dangerous given the road condition and amount of traffic. If, by driving an SUV, you feel safer, you’re probably going to be less likely to perceive any danger and you’ll go faster than you would if you were in a small car.

I used to feel safe on the road in a car. Now everyone has some monster truck or SUV and I don’t feel safe at all. I’m a 6’1" 220 lb. guy with “little man” syndrome.

When a 90 lb. grandmom in an Excursion pulls up behind me, I feel intimidated. When she cuts in front of me because she doesn’t have a lick of experience driving something so damn big, I’ve got to back way off just to see around her safely. And when the next SUV promptly moves into that gap just created, I get steamed.

I don’t care if these drivers are trying to be agressive or not, the road is a much less friendly place now with such a disparity between vehicle sizes. Commuting sucks now and I blame the behemoths for this completely.

And another thing… why is there always ONE person in such a big, gas eatin’ vehicle?

PBS’s Frontline had an excellent program addressing SUV safety.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rollover/
There’s a lot of info on this site that may answer your questions and raise many more.

i may be wrong, but i think people drive these big old mosters cause they are so damn convienient! back seats for kid, rear cargo room for grocerys, room for the dog, cupholders cupholders CUPHOLDERS!!

my mom has a new Envoy (replaced her Yukon) and i have driven them both. they are fast, handle reasonably well (especially the Envoy- it hauls ass!)

face it, these vehicles are so popular because they work well in the real world, especially if you have a family. i have always had small cars or motorcycles, and now that i have a wife and kid, these just don’t cut it! damn, i wish i had 4 doors, a backseat and huge storage in the back! i wouldn’t have to cram the wife in the sliver called a seat and pile grocery into her lap, cause the babyseat takes up the front seat and his diaper bag takes up the floor space.

SUV= supremely useful vehicle


“Me on TV? That would be a fucking thing!”

Sacred Cow? I don’t know. You’ll be blasted from many quarters if you say anything disparaging about them, but it’s also (IMO) trendy in some other quarters to put 'em down. I’d be more inclined to hold them up as the Whipping Boy for America’s Ills. I’ve seen SUV’s blamed for just about everything, up to and including September 11th (wish I had a cite for that one).

I believe that minivans are far superior vehicles - at least for the purposes that many SUV buyers claim to need them for. As I read gatopescado’s third paragraph, I can’t think of any of those features that minivans don’t also possess. But, they’re not the “in” thing right now.

I know, I know, I’m bashing. So I’ll reel in that very general statement and make a very specific one: Some friends of mine (married, 2 kids) are contemplating a new vehicle, and are leaning towards an SUV. They have explicitly ruled out a minivan because they are not pleased with the image that driving one would put forth. (They told my wife this flat-out.)

An anecdote, but personally I doubt it’s unique. :slight_smile:

Actually, I read gato’s third graf, and think: Yeah, my folks did that with 4 kids in a Ford LTD or a stationwagon.

I always laugh my ass off whenever I see someone in a SUV swerve to avoid a (not large) pothole. It just confirms my impression that many (no, not all) people who buy them do it because it’s trendy, as apparently they have no clue what the real capabilities of the vehicles are, or certainly don’t think about that.

Many SUVs are fine vehicles. My husband drove a Land Rover (a friend’s, we have a mid-sized sedan) across a plowed field and felt no bumps, even driving against the direction of the plowing. However, it seems like most people who buy them really don’t need the capabilities of that kind of vehicle.

Alternately, most people who buy sports cars really don’t need that kind of performance either, or any encouragement to speed. However, I don’t have problems seeing around their low-slung cars at intersections. :wink:

I saw an interesting program on TLC (I think it was TLC) but basically although car safety is improving highway fatalities are not changing much. With better steering, anti-lock breaks and airbags, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. The reason seems to be that the safer a driver feels the worse they drive. So a person gets into a SUV and thinks ‘I’m Invincible’ and then they drive like a maniac.

One person on the show even suggested that we should put a 12 inch metal spike on the steering wheel so that in an impact the driver will be killed. It would make everyone drive defensivly.

I think SUVs should go away. Most people don’t need anything neer that big. I grew up in a family of six kids and we did just fine with out one.

When my husband’s on his way to pick up the kids in our Land Rover, should he put a sign in the window explaining why he’s by himself? :rolleyes:

I know many families have a valid use for such a vehicle and the bennies fit quite nicely. For them… hurrah.

My wife and I were shopping for a new car about two years ago.

She wanted an SUV for its comfort and protection.
I didn’t want an SUV because they’re gargantuan gas-guzzlers.

We settled for a Toyota Camry – she gets comfort and good workmanship, I get something that doesn’t encourage Detroit (or Japan) to make more of those oversized, underutilized boat anchors.

I have nothing against the folks who have legitimate needs for an SUV, but my experience is that most people who say they have a legitimate need are simply whiners who can’t “tough it out” with a large sedan or a minivan.

Such vehicles have been around for years. They’re called station wagons.

And not only are they more efficient and easier to handle, they’re usually less expensive than monstro-behemoth SUV’s and they often look better too.

Zap!
Who will give up his Custom Cruiser when they pry it from his cold, dead fingers.

SUVS are ugly and tasteless.

If youre going to only do 10mpg, at least do it in style.

I despise SUVs. I have a large Sedan. I can fit five passengers in it, get good gas mileage and I have a spacious trunk that does not have a window. Having a trunk you can see into is like window shopping for thieves. I’ll take my nice cushy Sedan over a SUV anyday.

Yes, I’m sure some people that drive SUV’s alone are on their way to pick up the kids or the dog. But I’d say that ~80% of SUV’s I see on my daily commute have only a driver. There are reasons to own an SUV. If you need to carry covered cargo or passengers off road on a regular basis. Other than that, there is no reason that I can think of to need an SUV. As has been stated, a minivan or station wagon does everything an SUV does, only better,safer (IMHO they avoid accidents better) and more efficently.
dead0man

I have a little tiny compact car that gets almost 40 mpg because it’s so small and light. I’m pretty sure that my first accident involving an SUV will be my last. Ever.

It’s hard to get used to being a second-class citizen when on the road.

Actually, it’s probably more like third-class, as best. :slight_smile: A fully loaded big rig will handily win a collision with any personal vehicle, even a “behemoth” like an Excursion.

I don’t think SUVs are sacred cows. I think they may just be the automobile trend of the moment.

In the 50s and 60s, nearly every family had a station wagon. Remember the big Country Squires with the imitation woodgrain paneling? Or the huge Dodge station wagons–we once got two adults and six kids and a weekend’s worth of stuff in one of those.

Later, after the kids were older, Mom and Dad wanted the status symbol of the land yacht: Cadillacs, Lincolns, huge Buicks and Oldsmobiles. The kids themselves got into the van craze of the 70s, and bought vans they could customize. Unless they got married and had their own kids; in which case they drove full-size vans with bench seats in the back for the kids. And a CB radio.

The trend since the fuel crises in the 70s has been towards smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles, which makes the SUV somewhat of an anomaly today. But today’s SUV driver who says they need it for the kids, for safety, for status, or whatever is no different from those in the past who said they needed a station wagon/land yacht/full-size van for the kids, safety, status, or whatever. It’s a trend, and it will pass.

Disclaimer: All of the above is opinion based on personal observation and experience. As always, your mileage may vary. :slight_smile:

SUVs combine two things, utility and trendiness. There are very few SUV owners for whom the SUV is the best option utility wise. If you’re carrying the family, a minivan is usually better. If you’re carrying stuff, a pickup/van is usually better. People pick the SUV, even though the utility is lower, because they will look better driving it.

There are situations when an SUV is best solution, but most people don’t fit those criteria.