TMQ on SUV safety issues

TMQ has written a great article on the safety issues surrounding SUV’s. I used to own one of these until my wife rolled her a few years ago. I am currently back in sedan class cars and happily enjoying the benefits in terms of safety and fuel economy…thoughts from others on the topic?

Summary: “Everything you know about SUVs is a lie.”

Some bizarre shit in there about stuff like focus groups designing the Durango to be as intimitading and anti-social as possible. Brian Koontz must have one :wink:

What does TMQ stand for?

Tuesday Morning Quarterback.
They’re talking about Gregg Easterbrook, Erik, but for some reason I can’t fathom, Graller is calling him by his “once Slate now ESPN” football columnist monniker.

He’s a TNR editor, that’s his real job.


I know he writes for the National Review - I was introduced to him from an earlier thread here in the newsgroup as the writer of the TMQ Page 2 feature on ESPN. And its a heck of a lot easier to use in a subject tag.

To my knowledge he doesn’t write for the National Review. He writes for The New Republic, but that’s an even easier mistake to make than to refer to him as TMQ. ;-)

Where I come from, we call that looking “cool.” I don’t think I believe that driving a vehicle with lots of chrome and grillwork makes people worse drivers.

I have seen supremely overconfident SUV drivers spin out in wet/snowy conditions more times then I can count. I do not agree with his assertions regarding how these cars are tied to Road Rage. Most of the people I know who have them are using them as replacements for the station wagon/minivan as a kiddie hauler. Not the type of person I associate with road rage. But the safety issues regarding brakes, rollovers, weight and mileage were interesting.

If you discount the half of the article where he’s getting all hysterical about how owning or even liking SUVs is a symptom of mental illness, there’s some pretty damning stuff in there. I don’t understand his reasoning as to why 4WD isn’t better than FWD for icy road conditions, though. Can anyone elaborate?

There’s a pretty unpersuasive rebuttal at National Review Online. Among other things, the author accuses Easterbrook of failing to mention several facts that clearly are covered in Easterbrook’s piece. Most notably, the NRO rebuttal says:

This is something Easterbrook simply does not do. If he had, he would have noted that while driving an SUV may marginally increase some risks, such as the risk of rollover, other risks, such as the risk from injury or death in a frontal collision, are greatly reduced.

But here’s Easterbrook:

Buyers who choose enormous SUVs because the metal makes them feel safe are surely thinking that most car crashes are head-to-head collisions, in which metal does favor those in SUVs.

Maybe the NRO guy just skimmed the article he was attacking. I do that a lot.

The key issue here is that this guy wants to legislate away the right of companies to market and of consumers to buy the vehicle of their choice. But he’s not content just to make the case based on the facts, he really isn’t happy unless he paints SUV owners as being the biggest jerkoffs on the planet.

That’s not journalism, it’s hysteria. I agree that the rebuttal at NRO was slightly weak, but it’s far more reasoned than the Easterbrook article. Hell, the NRO writer even admits that he doesn’t like SUVs! But he is willing to accept that some people do without coming to the conclusion that they are all road nazis.

I want my SUV but with proper brakes, a unibody design, better emissions and such. If it costs 3-5k more or the car companies have to live with the skinnier margins they are accustomed to on sedans that would be fine with me. I also dislike the lobbyist/exclusionary stuff that goes on in Congress…of course THAT is not limited to SUV’s :?

For a serious percentage of SUV owners, it’s not a matter of mental illness. Rather, it’s a matter of:

  1. Susceptibility to trends. All the neighbors have SUVs, so my wife has to drive one too. Wouldn’t do to have her drop the kids from something smaller than a Ford Excursion. If you look at which kinds of cars sell, you’ll see huge shifts every few years. Station wagons were dead, now they’re getting trendy. Mid-sized hatchbacks used to be huge, now they’re extinct. Etc. The unwashed masses buy what the neighbors are buying.

  2. Safety misperceptions. If you polled 100 SUV-driving soccer moms, I’d bet 80% of them think that being up high in a big SUV makes them safer. And to a degree they’re right, but it’s also at the expense of the safety of those in more rational cars.

  3. Size. People with kids need room. SUVs don’t have the stigma that mini-vans do, and station wagons don’t yet fit in with category #1.

I have no objection to people who actually use the capabilities of SUVs owning them. People who haul stuff in their jobs, people who actually do go off road, live on snowy hills, etc. It’s the fact that probably 75% of the SUVs on the road now are there because they’re the “in” vehicle in suburbia. Which wouldn’t bug me if those SUVs weren’t so environmentally damaging and dangerous to those of us in smaller cars.

If you bought your Jeep Cherokee in 1990, as I did, does that make you a trend setter (even if it’s a bad trend)?

I have seen supremely overconfident SUV drivers spin out in wet/snowy conditions more times then I can count. I do not agree with his assertions regarding how these cars are tied to Road Rage.

Yeah, that’s pretty absurd, and I doubt there’s anything resemblin data to support such a claim. From where I sit road rage seems directly related to the stupidity of many drivers on the road. People who never look in their rearview mirrors, who ignore the “Slow Traffic Keep Right” signs posted every 2 miles. People who don’t use on-ramps as an opprotunity to get up to freeway speeds. Yeah, that’s right. The on-ramp doesn’t have a 40 mph speed limit, despite what many seem to think. I’m not one to ever physically harm someone over something like that, but it’s certainly frustrating sharing the road with people who are completely oblivious to the other cars and basic driving courtesy.

I’m just guessing, but unless you have studded tires, you’re pretty much screwed with 4WD or FWD on ice. You could make an argument, I suppose, that 4WD adds weight, which adds to interia, which means you’ll travel further as you spin out on the ice.

It’a also possible that not having wheels offering any propulsion means they do not slip and therefore allow more driver control, though most 4WD cars have limited slip differentials to avoid wheelspin (actually, a lot of cars with ABS have this as well, since it’s a similar system only in reverse).

Unless you live on a mountain, 4WD is pretty useless even in snowy climates. FWD cars typically have up to 60% of the weight over the front wheels, which aids traction in slippery weather. Rear-wheel drive cars, of course, are evil in bad weather, unless the car is mid- or rear-engined (giving it the same advantage as an FWD car, but with the thrilling increase in on- and off-throttle oversteer).

His argument is that they cause harm to others and have long term implications that are political and environmental.

Should we not have pulled, say, hairspray with CFCs off the market because, you know, people liked aerosol cans and people had the right to make and consume them? (And I have no idea if I have my science right, so feel free to mock me.)

Isn’t that true of most of the imports, the RAV4s, the CRVs, that Mercedes? How about a Porsche Cayenne? I don’t think most of those are based on truck platforms.

Right, how dare he advocate legislating away the right of companies to make whatever they want, especially in the market for automobiles. Sure, letting the federal government mandate fleet mileage for new cars, mandate crash tests, mandate non-explosive fuel tanks, and mandate redesigns that’ll kill less people was ok, but letting them apply those same established legal properties to SUVS is too far!

If you drive an SUV, you’re risking not only your own life, but those of everyone else on the road.