Sport Utility Vehicles: A Work in Progress. (Big and Bad?)

By Willoughby, Bruce | Consumers' Research Magazine, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Sport Utility Vehicles: A Work in Progress. (Big and Bad?)


Willoughby, Bruce, Consumers' Research Magazine


There's no denying that a large segment of the buying public remains head-over-heels for go-anywhere sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Drivers dream of exploring windswept shorelines, discovering hidden forest valleys, or navigating rocky creek beds--even though tires rarely touch anything but pavement.

But while much has been done to make SUVs rugged, roomy, and powerful, making them safer and more environmentally friendly remains a work in progress.

Critics deride SUVs as menacing to smaller vehicles, prone to rollover, expensive to repair, and a drain on energy resources.

Regardless, several new SUV models roll off the assembly line every year. In 2001, light truck vehicles (LTV)--a category that includes pickups, vans, and SUVs--accounted for more than one-half of all new vehicles sold in the United States. If the trend continues, SUVs eventually will account for one of every five vehicles on the road.

Some History. It's generally accepted that the first American vehicle to fit the SUV mold was the 1935 Chevrolet Suburban. After that, SUVs remained little more than a blip on the radar screen until Jeep introduced the Cherokee and Ford the Bronco. Add to that Ford's introduction of the Explorer, and sales began to thrive. Throughout the 1990s, "SUV sales increased an average of 17% each year across the industry," says Marcy Byrn, Ford spokesperson.

Some people credit the rise in SUV popularity to the increased number of double-income, two-car households. The multiple functions offered by SUVs--off-roading, cargo-carrying, towing, and increased passenger room--made these vehicles more appealing to younger families who were enjoying greater mobility and a more active lifestyle than earlier generations. During the 1980s and 1990s, younger, more financially independent drivers also were buying more vehicles.

Quelling Concerns. As the number of SUVs have increased, so have the occupant safety and comfort options. Air bags, anti-lock brakes, drive-train choices (rear-, front-, four- and all-wheel), and features such as traction control and electronic stability control (ESC) provide an extra level of performance and safety.

These options, however, don't negate the concerns of SUV critics, and these concerns have become amplified as SUVs grow increasingly larger.

Are they truly a hazard to smaller vehicles? They definitely can be. The size difference, though, benefits occupants of the SUV. According to Russ Rader, director of communications for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, smaller, lighter vehicles in each class generally have higher death rates. "Vehicle size and weight are important characteristics that influence crash-worthiness," he says. "The laws of physics dictate that--all else being equal--larger and heavier vehicles are safer than smaller and lighter ones."

That's because larger vehicles typically have longer crush zones, which help prevent damage to the safety cage and lower the crash forces inside.

Added weight also offers better protection in two-vehicle crashes. In a head-on crash, for example, the heavier vehicle drives the lighter one backwards, decreasing forces inside the heavy vehicle and increasing them in the lighter one, Rader explains.

Of course, the added height on SUVs can provide drivers with an increased field of vision, but that improved perspective--along with added vehicle length--also can restrict drivers from seeing smaller vehicles. In addition, some SUV drivers may feel a false sense of security and invincibility.

The Driver's Role. But like any other segment of the driving public,

the blame for inappropriate, accident-prone driving behavior falls squarely on the person behind the wheel. No passenger vehicle--especially the large, boxy kind--was meant to be driven like a race car, and the people who do drive that way endanger themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the road. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Sport Utility Vehicles: A Work in Progress. (Big and Bad?)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.