Tuesday, November 04, 2003


My past posts on SUVs have always produced a big response from readers and my post yesterday was no exception. It reminds me of a study that the letters editor of the Sydney Morning Herald (one of Australia's major newspapers) did many years ago. He went through all his files to see what single topic had attracted the most letters to the editor. Was it something to do with war, the economy, morality etc.? No. The question that drew most letters was whether one should mount the toilet paper on the toilet-paper holder so that the paper ran down the front of the roll or the back of the roll!! I still laugh every time I tell that story. The obvious lesson is that people care most about things in their own lives. Not too surprising, really.

Anyway, here is one comment that I received on SUVs:

"I like the points you make. I'm not in love with SUVs, mainly because through observation I've come to the belief that not only does driving an SUV make them feel safe, it makes them feel invincible. I used to commute to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, some fifty miles from where I live. I made the drive in all but blizzard conditions. One treacherously snowy morning, I was driving down the Interstate. I was traveling at 45 - 50 miles per hour and thought I might be pushing it a bit. Suddenly an SUV loomed behind me and passed at what I'd guess was normal highway speed. This SUV had a "personality plate" on it. If you don't know what that is, it is this: for an extra fee you can specify exactly the letters and numbers on you license plate, as long as it is unique. This particular personality plate read: LITG8R, i.e., litigator, lawyer, solicitor. So, this legal eagle, who might even be on his way to try a negligence case, was on the verge of being grossly negligent.

The SUVs may make their owners feel safe, but in making my commute for almost ten years, the most frequent vehicles I saw off the road during/after a snow storms were SUVs, pickup trucks, and semis (or articulated lorries). Almost without exception, the SUVs would be either lying on their side or be upside down".

And another email:

"Read your blog post tonight about SUVs. Agree with you, but I think you misunderstood the article you linked to. I read it and he did not say you can't put one baby seat in a compact. He said you can't put four kids under 12 in a sedan. Maybe you can in Australia, but you can't here in the US because you aren't allowed to use the front seat. And when all your kids 85 pounds or less have to have a baby seat/booster chair (which is the law here) even three kids often can't fit because most sedans can't fit three baby seats and boosters across one row. The writer also was talking about SUVs and minivans together. Parents could live without SUVs if minivans exist or vice-versa but those of us with several little kids or more than three kids would have a hard time without one or the other. Maybe if they brought back station wagons with a third row of seats but they are hard to find these days, and if you have to put your kids in the third row, where do the groceries go?"

The lady has a point. The article I linked to did lump together minivans and SUVs. The two are of course different and it is only SUVs that people seem to get heated about. There are heaps of minibuses and small wagons with a third row of seats here in Australia so that is the normal big-family option here rather than a SUV (or 4WDS as we call them). And I am also betting that less than 5% of SUVs ever have more than two baby seats in them.


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