Actually, guess again--the number of Americans who behave this way recently passed 20 million. That's the estimate for those who own oversize sports-utility vehicles, from the entry-level, 5,000-pound Dodge Durango that temporarily eclipses the sun as it passes by to the supertanker-class Ford
In recent years, it has become common for everyone from editorialists to late-night comedians to deride SUVs. Surely, SUV owners are totally sick of hearing about how people don't like their cars. Yet sales of these mega-vehicles continue to sell briskly. Perhaps many buyers and owners do not understand that the case against SUVs isn't just a matter of taste, it is a matter of harm to the public. Consider:
First and foremost is that driving an SUV trebles the chance that you will kill someone else in a crash. SUVs kill because they weigh much more than regular cars and because their chassis are higher, increasing the chance they will ride over the hood of a standard car during a collision and then land atop the passenger compartment, crushing the occupants. In 1996, for example, SUVs colliding with cars killed more people than cars colliding with cars, even though, since cars are more numerous, car-to-car crashes outnumbered SUV-to-car crashes four to one. Thousands of Americans, estimates show, die avoidable deaths each year when their cars are hit by SUVs. These deaths are avoidable in the sense that an identical crash with a standard car would not have killed.
Ponder, for comparison, the current controversy regarding federal standards for arsenic in drinking water. A worst-case analysis says current arsenic standards cause about 100 premature deaths a year. While there are loud political cries to tightly regulate arsenic in water, the much greater danger of SUV size and the ride-over problem of SUV design are entirely unregulated.
But wait a minute, you say: my SUV may be a menace to others, but at least it keeps me and mine safe! Many seem to rationalize the SUV in this way. Maybe I'll kill someone else, but I won't die.