S.U.V. safety

S.U.V.s are not safer than smaller cars, but they give the illusion of safety, according to “Big and Bad: How the S.U.V. ran over automotive safety” written by Malcolm Gladwell and published in The New Yorker in January.

The extra weight, higher center of gravity and frame construction cause them to take longer to stop, swerve more and be less safe in an accident than cars.

So are you safer driving a car or an S.U.V.? Gladwell says cars are safer because you can avoid accidents better in a car thanks to handling and shorter stopping distances. Mini-vans, such as the Ford Winstar, are built more like cars than trucks and are safer than S.U.V.s.

Are you safer in a S.U.V. in a wreck? Fatality statistics show S.U.V.s are no safer in actual wrecks than cars. Market research shows that S.U.V. buyers value stronger their belief they will be safer in the inevitable wreck over being better able to avoid a possible wreck, Gladwell writes.

Parts of Gladwell’s article feel like stretches to make a point. He describes the psychology of S.U.V. drivers as trading their responsibility for being safe drivers for the perception they will be able to survive the actual wreck.

S.U.V.s are the vehicles we like to hate. Their size makes us uncomfortable when around them. It’s more like driving around a group of tractor trailers.

During the snow on Thursday I heard more complaints about S.U.V. drivers sliding and being involved in wrecks. Maybe they were traveling too fast to stop on the icy roads, but maybe we notice them because they are big.

Gladwell cites the book “High and Mighty” by Keith Bradsher for more about S.U.V.s and the perceptions of their buyers.

Last Sunday, N.Y. Times reports How an S.U.V. Stacks Up to a Car on the Test Track, which discussed how automakers are trying to make S.U.V.s safer, but they’re still not as safe as cars and minivans. There’s also www.safercars.gov operated by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Others discussing Gladwell’s article include Tom Mangan, Shelia Lennon, and Scobileizer

Earlier this month, Marcia had an accident when an S.U.V. in front of her backed into the car. No personal injuries and medium body damage to the car. Driver said she ignored an audible warning device that something was behind her. Probably would have happened even if the driver had been in a car.

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