In my heart of hearts, I really want the beasts off our streets. At the peak of my anti-SUV dudgeon I read Keith Bradsher’s excellent book, High and Mighty which details all of the safety, environmental and economic reasons that we should worry about the growing popularity of SUVs.
Before reading Bradsher’s book, I thought SUVs were a classic collective action problem: while the presence of SUVs on our streets make the roads more dangerous for everybody, if there are SUVs on the road, you’re better off being in one yourself
- if only to protect yourself in a potential collision with another SUV (because in SUV vs car collisions, the car really takes a beating - because the high bumpers of SUVs crush the passenger compartments of lower-to-the-ground cars).
The single most useful bit of information in Bradsher’s book is that there is no collective action problem: even with all those car-crushing SUVs on the road, you’re still safer in a car or minivan. That’s because the increased risk of a rollover in popular SUVs like the Ford Explorer more than outweigh the greater probability of surviving a collision with another SUV.
So why do we allow these vehicles on the road at all? Well, I’m personally willing to concede that in a very small number of circumstances
- like in in rural areas with unpaved roads or heavy snow - the 4×4 may actually have some utilitarian value. But in the city SUVs are just gas-guzzling, kid-endangering, space-hogging nightmares.