To what extent am I responsible for someone else's safety?

This stems from the current Pit thread RE: SUV’s and their safety. I quoted [url=“”]this site[/url} (a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) which states that heavier cars (in general) are safer for the occupants, but more dangerous to other drivers in smaller cars.

Now, one of the arguments agains the widespread popularity of SUV’s has been “They’re more dangerous to smaller cars”. This, I think is common sense. Some want to ban or restrict SUV’s because they’re big.

Which brings me to my argument… why should I have to sacrifice my own safety for the sake of the possibility of enhancing someone else’s? I have no responsibility to indulge the fears of hypothetical situations… if I want to put myself in a bigger car - to protect ME - isn’t that my right? Even if it has the possibility of hurting someone else at some future point, that scenario is hardly a foregone conclusion… it’d be just as likely that I’D get even more seriously hurt.

So which is it… should I take care of my own safety, or diminish my safety on the off-chance that it may have the possibility of enhancing someone else’s safety? My own stance is that people are responsible to themselves first and foremost, and any concerns about others should NOT be forced upon them (in general).


Hmm. Short thread.

BTW, here’s your link–you had a curly bracket at the end. Preview is your friend.


Thank you, Miss (Mrs? Ms?) Goose. You are a goddess amongst waterfowl. :smiley:

Yeah, it’s fully within your rights to protect your safety at the expense of others.

Just because it is within your rights, doesn’t mean you can do it without being a jerk. SUVs decapitate people when they get in head on collisions. You are safe, but the other people have no more heads. I am sure the greiveing families will be comforted by the fact that you were within your rights. The jerk-hood is amplified by the economic angle (I can afford a hulking SUV, you can afford a '87 Corolla; I will survive the crash, you will get decapitated).

And in the end, the whole SUV-for-safety argument is like an arms race. You need an SUV to protect yourself from other SUVs. It esculates and esculates until we are all driving around in humvees, squashing those that can’t afford them left and right, and no one is better off except the oil companies.

From a legal standpoint, there can be restrictions on SUVs for safety purposes. Many vehicles (buses and big rigs, for example) require special training and licenseing for use on public roads. Why should SUVs, if they are found to be a menace, not be subject to appropriate regulation?

I don’t see it as “jerky behavior” to take every step you can to ensure your survival in an accident.

What’s the alternative? Deliberately exposing yourself to an added risk on the slight possibility that it may help someone else?

So the only threats on the roads are SUV’s?

I think they should be. Too many people drive an SUV like they would a car, which is just a Bad Idea.

Well, as one of the board Objectivists, I would say that you have no responsibility whatsoever to anyone else’s safety! Why should you feel the need to sacrifice your safety and that of your family because someone else feels that it’s wrong for you to drive such a safe vehicle? Of course, it also comes down to class envy: you should feel rich man’s guilt because someone can’t afford an SUV and hence you should not purchase one.

Fully within your rights. There have been SUV’s for what, 30 some years now, and if anything, have been getting smaller, but suddenly they are a menace? Nobody bitches about the pickups that are 6 feet up in the air with huge mudder tires on them. Or the sports car than can drive under an SUV like a wedge and flip it over. Those sports cars are just plain evil I tell ya!

… Don’t we have that already? A pedestrian needs to be able to know a few rules and to know what the cross walk signs mean. Anyone who operates a motor vehicle for the most part, just because there are a few exceptions in some places and I’m covering my backside, has to pass a test or three. Then when it gets to be a big enough vehicle, they need more training and more tests. Right?

Now you all seem to want to pick on SUV drivers because SUV’s will squash another car every time and there is some special handling characteristics that need ‘special’ training for and you also can’t afford one so they are bad? “Scratch” that last, it was a cheap shot. Not the SUV, the drivers need re-testing and re-schooling.

Where do you want the line? At SUV’s? What about Lincoln Continentals? Caddy’s? Pickup trucks?

I guess you all are asking for more and tougher schooling for all drivers, right? You might need to drive an SUV sometime and if you don’t have that endorsement on your license, well then, you could go to jail if caught, right?

I guess I just don’t think I really understand what the deal is. Or maybe I do.

Well, think of it this way… there are different classifications of drivers’ licenses, some for cars, some for motorcycles, some for big-rig trucks. You need different training for different vehicles because they all drive the same. An SUV is big and tall, and handles like a truck, not a car. My point is that a lot of people drive an SUV like they would a car… and as a result, Bad Things occasionally happen.

Don’t! They all DON’T drive the same! ::bashes head with rubber chicken::

My understanding is that typically the enhanced rollover risk in SUVs balances out the extra safety associated with extra mass.

So you’re not making yourself safer. You are adding to the risks of sharing the road with you though.

On the other hand, a heavier sedan would effectively shift risk from you to the other drivers. That’s your right. Whether it is especially moral is another matter. A utilitarian would encourage you to buy a car that’s enhances total safety rather than shifts it from one driver to another.

Consumer Reports publishes crash test data; cars with air bags, not surprisingly, do better. But some safety advantages simply reflect better car design.

There’s a publication called, The Car Book which is also recommended. It’s available in the reference section of most libraries.

See also:

Interesting question.

I saw that in England, you may own and drive a WW2 tank on the streets, provided it is modified so as not to shred the roads, has proper lights and, of course, the weaponry does not work. From what I can tell, even the biggest SUV could not hurt one of those nor a semi-truck. You’ve the right to drive one of those so long as you use due care.

The same with an SUV. Provided you do not go blasting recklessly about, use due care when around people with more fragile cars, your responsibility towards others would be met. If they slam into you and experience more injuries because they drive an economic small car, then your responsibilities are still kept.

Like, if you were driving a WW2 tank, that can only get up to around 40 mph and someone plowed into your heavily armored side at 50. Certainly, the results would be like hitting a brick wall, with little injury to your vehicle, but it would be their fault.

Now, while the economic factor is something to consider, concerning those who can afford it buying a safer vehicle while those less off have to drive beer cans with wheels, well that doesn’t actually seem to fit into the realm of personal responsibility. That would fall into the vehicle manufacturers lap.

People buy what they can afford and people take their own responsibilities for their actions. Like, bikers getting the helmet law repealed so they can feel their hair blow in the breeze. Well, now they’ve begun to scatter their few brains all over the pavement in accidents also.

They had the option to wear helmets and chose not to. So, any severe head injuries they incur even if in an accident not caused by them, that could have been prevented by a helmet then becomes their own fault.

That is like the extreme sports nuts. No one forced them to jump off of that mountain wearing a parachute and if they slammed into the rock face on the way down and broke both legs, then that is their responsibility, not that of the mountain guide nor the parachute maker.

It is possible to make all types of safer cars, in order to even out the field, so to speak, but so long as the automobile industry is basically profit oriented, that will not happen. If it does, then a lot of people will not be able to afford the resulting cars. As it stands today, the car industry could make safer cars, take a little less profit to make them affordable but the decision makers are not willing to do so.

So, basically, they assume responsibility for producing a vehicle that they know will not stand up to an impact from something like a big SUV. Unfortunately, they don’t care and it is still buyer beware.

Now, if we could ever force through a law requiring all car makers and dealers to tell every potential buyer the absolute truth about any selected vehical, that would help, but it’s not likely to ever happen.

  1. Cite, please, on SUVs decapitating people in head-on accidents.

  2. This post is a textbook example of class envy. Instantly the victim is driving an 87 Corolla. Why not a 2001 Porsche, or 2000 BMW M3, etc. BTW, you can buy an 87 Bronco for the same price as an 87 Corolla, so your “amplified jerk-hood” is meaningless.

A finding of liability would not be based on the amount of harm caused, so it would not matter if you were driving a large SUV or not.

Upon there being a finding against you (regardless of type of vehicle), then quantum of damages would be considered. If you were in a sub-compact and caused little damage, then the award would reflect this. If you were in a large SUV and caused significant damage, then the award would reflect this.

In short, you would not be held to a higher standard of care simply because you drive a large SUV, but in the event of your being at fault, there is a real chance that you would pay greater damages simply because you had caused greater damages.

Does anyone have any hard evidence that SUV’s pose more of a danger to other vehicles? I think a lot of people approach this argument as being ‘common sense’, but this is one of those cases where common sense is probably wrong.

The ‘weight’ argument is a non-starter. There are SUV’s that weigh less than many passenger sedans. And the small economy cars are far lighter than the ‘average’ car on the road. Economy cars tend to weigh somewhere in the mid 2000 lb range. Most regular sedans and sports cars fall in the low/mid 3000 lb range. Luxury sedans fall in the 4000 lb and up range. SUV’s fit right into the same range as sedans - the smaller ones are in the weight range of an average sedan, and the big luxury models are in the same weight range as the big luxury sedans.

How many of you would have guessed that the Jeep Cherokee weighs less than a Ford Taurus sedan? Or that a Volvo luxury sedan weighs about 1300 lbs more than both of them? I don’t hear a lot of hatred being spewed against those dangerous Volvo drivers.

How many of you would have guessed that a Corvette weighs over 200 lbs more than a Jeep Cherokee? Given the way a Corvette is likely to be driven (and how much harder it is to see), which vehicle do you think poses more of a danger to you?

Sure, you can make the argument that an SUV is more likely to climb over another vehicle, but I don’t know of any stats that actually support that as a significant factor in accidents. On the other hand, I could argue that the SUV driver, with his or her better visibility and traction is more likely to be able to avoid the accident with you in the first place, especially on slippery roads when accidents are more likely to occur. And the size of the SUV means that YOU are more likely to see it and be able to avoid an accident.

It is true that, as a class SUV’s tend to be somewhat heavier than the fleet average, and therefore are likely to do somewhat more damage in an accident. But then, as a class luxury cars are also heavier, and I don’t hear the widespread hatred against those.

The hatred of SUV’s is pure class envy. They are big and expensive, a very visible indicator of class status. That causes some people to dislike them, and seek out logical reasons why they are ‘bad’. On the face of it, the safety issue seems to be a good one to hang your hat on. But upon examination, it’s pretty weak.

To paraphrase Rodney King, we should all just learn to get along. A person in our society who drives an economy car and uses energy-efficient lights in his house still consumes more energy in a day than a subsistence farmer in Vietnam consumes in a year. Yet, the person who drives the economy car is likely to look down his nose at his neighbor who uses perhaps 5% more energy than he does.

Class envy it is not. I don’t care what people do in their sports cars. When class differences can a) get you killed (as we are discussing here) and b) Pollute the air that we all have to breathe (as we are not discussing here) then I consider it a matter of my concern. Call me a commie but, I don’t think that who lives and who dies should be decided by who has the cash.

According to The SUV info link, admittedly not the most unbiased source,"
Light trucks crashing into cars accounts for the majority of fatalities in vehicle-to-vehicle collisions"
,even though “light trucks”, a catagory that legally includes SUVs, account for only a third of registered vehicles. It goes further to claim that "Of the 5,259 fatalities caused when light trucks struck cars in 1996, 81 percent of the fatally injured were occupants of the car. In multiple-vehicle crashes, the occupants of the car are four times more likely to be killed than the occupants of the SUV. In a side-impact collision with an SUV, car occupants are 27 times more likely to die."

It goes on to say that the damage that SUVs cause in not a matter of weight alone. They claim that SUVs rigid frames and high stance. They claim the NHTSA backs that up with crash test findings.

Beyond that is the safety hazard caused by high headlights shining directly into the retinas of smaller car drivers and wide stances that make it harder for smaller car drivers to see around.

Regarding the rollover factor they say that “According to NHTSA, SUVs rollover in 37 percent of fatal crashes, compared to a 15 percent rollover rate for passenger cars. Rollover crashes accounted for 53 percent of all SUV occupant deaths in single vehicle crashes in 1996. Only 19 percent of occupant fatalities in passenger cars occurred in similar crashes”

And um…Sam, the Ford Excursion weighs 8,500 lbs. What, pray tell, compares to that?

errr…their rigid frame and high stance pose a severe safety problem to other cars.

I see absolutely no information in your post or the page you linked to stating that SUVs decapitate people in cars in head-on accidents.

As far as headlights go, I’ve been blinded by more poorly aimed headlights in cars than any pickups, SUV’s, or mini-vans.

Whoa. I’d sure like to see a cite for this. I see that you can pay to learn to drive a tank, but the lessons all take place off-road, on the training center’s grounds.

This thread seems to have gone off track. Judging by the OP, the debate isn’t whether SUVs should be banned or regulated or whether they are dangerous, it is whether or not you have a responsibility towards the safety of others.

And the answer to that is, yes, you do have a responsibility towards the safety of others. When you partake in a dangerous activity (driving) in a public place, you have an obligation towards others. For instance, you cannot drive around at night using your highbeams when there is oncoming traffic (i believe in most states that this is a ticketable offense, correct me if i’m wrong) … yes, it may help you see better and increase your own safety, but it is a hazard to other drivers.

I am not making any comments on the safety of SUVs, i am just responding to the OP - no, you do not have the inalienable right to sacrifice the safety of others to protect yourself.