Should SUVs be Illegal?
On September 3, 1995 a fatal automobile accident occurred on highway 26; a small red car lost control when it hit a patch of wet pavement and headed straight towards a white Chevy Suburban. The impact of the collision ripped the small red car into two pieces resulting in a large fireball and instantly killing the two 20 year old female occupants. No fatalities occurred within the Suburban (Smith). Had the Suburban been a smaller, more conventional car the outcome may have been much different; no deaths may have occurred at all. SUV are becoming a huge risk on the roads today. Unfortunately SUVs seem to be ever growing in popularity. This increase in popularity is cause for several annoyances, all of which seem to be directly related to their large size. There are many reasons why SUVs should be illegal or somehow regulated; they waste gas, they are too large and they are overall more dangerous than conventional cars.
SUVs are not exactly environmental friendly. For starters, they have horrible gas mileage. www.fueleconomy.gov, a website dedicated to educating the public on the benefits of better fuel economy, has tables of the current fuel economy that 2004 automobiles are actually achieving. SUVs have a considerable lower fuel economy than more conventional cars; SUVs tend to average about 16 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway, whereas conventional cars get around 20 and 26 miles per gallon respectively. Due to the SUVs excessive use of gas they have a higher rate of emissions when compared to other cars. The rise in SUV popularity factored with the greater emissions of SUVs means that more and more gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide will be released into the atmosphere as time progresses. These gases have an adverse effect on Earth’s climate; they are contributing factors to the greenhouse effect and therefore may play a large role in global warming (Environmental Protection Agency). There are current efforts to try and reduce these emissions, but they either won’t be out any time soon or are rejected altogether. For instance, many car manufacturers will be coming out with hybrid (vehicles that are powered by both gas and electricity) SUVs which will significantly increase gas mileage and thus reduce emissions. Unfortunately these hybrid SUVs will not be seen until 2006 or later. Even when they are commercially available it is uncertain as to how well they will be received by consumers. The Kyoto Protocol is another effort put forth by many nations to try and reduce the emission of pollutants into Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately not all nations have agreed to comply with the Kyoto Protocol. In fact George W. Bush “rejected” the Kyoto Protocol in March of 2001 (Burnett).
The large size of SUVs is of great concern when dealing with safety. While more than just a great annoyance, the large size of SUVs can impair visibility of people trying to see around it. While it is easy to see over the top or more traditional vehicles, SUVs block the line of sight for not only drivers of smaller cars, but also bicyclists or pedestrians trying to cross a road or enter traffic. Their overall wider body makes them more likely to clip other cars or objects than much smaller car. Some might make the observation that semi trucks also block the line of sight for smaller vehicles. However there is a key difference between SUVs and semi trucks. Semi trucks actually have a good reason and purpose for being so large, to transport products and materials in an efficient and costly manner. While some people do buy SUVs for their true purpose (recreation or hauling large objects and equipment), many people will use them for things that many other cars are capable of doing; a station wagon can go get groceries, take kids to sports, and carry large loads all at a fraction of the cost for gas.
SUVs are just an overall huge safety problem on today’s roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is an organization that deals with the safety of all vehicles. They are the organization that gives cars safety ratings between one and five stars that so many people are familiar with. According to the NHTSA standard passenger cars have an average of a 12 percent chance of rolling over when involved with single-vehicle accidents. However, SUVs have more than twice the chance of rolling over with a 28 percent average chance when involved in single-vehicle accidents (NHTSA). This increased chance of rollover is of great concern, considering that rollovers have a higher rate of fatalities than any other type of automobile accident (NHTSA). The only person at an advantage when driving is the one in the SUV; everyone else must be inconvenienced while the SUV driver rides high. This unfair advantage is especially present when an SUV is involved in an accident with a normal sized car. Being bigger SUVs have a much greater mass than smaller cars; the average SUV weighs about 900 more pounds than the average car (Graham). Simple physics show that this increase mass means that the SUV would beat the smaller car to a pulp. The fact that SUVs are traditionally higher off the ground does help out much either. This increased height means that their bumpers actually ride higher than bumpers on regular cars. Bumpers act as a sort of buffer, but in the case of an SUV they act more as a battering ram when hitting a smaller vehicle since they ride right over the smaller car’s bumper.
Something needs to be done about SUVs. If they continue to be left unchecked we will see a rapid rise in environmental deterioration as well as more fatal automobile accidents. John D. Graham, founder of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, believes that SUVs need to be somehow “civilized.” Efforts need to be put forth by such organizations as the NHTSA to help make SUVs safer and more environmentally safe (Graham). If SUVs are to stay legal then they will have to undergo some serious changes before they will be fit for everyday driving. One of those changes is already underway, the hybrid SUVs. But other things such as their increased chance of rollover and dangerously high bumpers have still not been completely addressed. Perhaps somehow lowering both the center of gravity (The Hummer is a perfect example of this. It was specifically engineered to have a low center of gravity to help prevent it from rolling over.) as well as bumpers will help make the SUV a more acceptable driving machine.
“Bio of John D Graham.” Office of Management and Budget. 5 November 2003 http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/bio.html
Burnett, H. Sterling. “Is the Clean Power Act Really Just Kyoto Cloaked as Bad Economics?” 18 December 2001. National Center for Policy Analysis. 5 November 2003 http://www.ncpa.org/prs/adv/2001/ma01dec18.html Graham, John D. “Civilizing the Sport Utility Vehicle.” Issues in Science & Technology Winter2000/2001: Vol. 17, Issue 2
“Global Warming – Emissions.” 15 August 2003. Environmental Protection Agency. 5 November 2003 http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/emissions.html Hummer
http://www.hummer.com “Rollover.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 5 November 2003 http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/problems/Rollover/index.htm Smith, Quinton. “Small Fixes Aren’t Enough for ‘Blood Alley’.” The Oregonian 7 August 2003: East Zoner