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Roll, Roll, Roll Your Boat
Anybody with kids who buys an SUV should be jailed for attempted child abuse. Just read the latest rollover statistics.

And here's Ben Greenman's New Yorker interview of Malcolm Gladwell on the boom of the SUV culture -- and on the narcissistic, rude, and dunderheaded people who drive them.

Posted by aalkon at February 6, 2004 8:42 AM

Comments

Could it be possible your hatred towards SUVs has blinded you to the truth?

http://www.usatoday.com/usatonline/20040205/5900266s.htm

Posted by: Donn Day at February 6, 2004 1:29 PM

But if you link to the real NHTSA data, you'll find that the ugliest and biggest SUVs, (The Excursion and the Suburban) have roll-over data comparable to many sedans. Sigh. If you don't like SUVs for some class reason, fine, but the safety issue is pretty much DOA.

Posted by: Carla at February 7, 2004 9:11 AM

Does Gladwell even drive? He's no expert, he's a writer who had a popular book. In that book, he's got a defense of smoking--okay, great. But he's all worried about the cars people drive?

Posted by: Saladang at February 7, 2004 9:18 AM

I'm on deadline now, so I don't have time to chase those statistics, but that's not what I remember from my research (or from my interview with one of the top AAA accident adjusters, who told me that a Volvo Station Wagon is the safest car on the road, if you have kids). I stand by my point that parents who drive SUVs care more about making a fashion statement than their kids lives or lungs. Scum!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 7, 2004 9:42 AM

Generally, SUVs are MUCH safer than standard size cars. Rolling over is still very rare, and it's much better for children than getting crushed. There are many other factors (like driving appropriately for the conditions) that affect safety than whether or not the vehicle is an SUV.

I understand that hyperbole can be fun, but things like "Anybody with kids who buys an SUV should be jailed for attempted child abuse." or "Parents who drive SUVs care more about making a fashion statement than their kids lives or lungs. Scum!" are just so wrong-headedly stupid and obviously false, in general, that it makes me wonder if this site will be worth a second look.

Posted by: Gil at February 7, 2004 2:14 PM

You're quite wrong. Read Bradsher's New Republic article and Stephanie Mencimer's in Washington Monthly. I believe both delineate the safety issues, if I remember correctly. The Explorer, for example, is basically a pickup truck with an extra shell. It is exceptionally unsafe. I don't enjoy (most) children; nor do I want them. I do think it is an enormous responsibility - not to be taken lightly - to have and raise a child. Any parent who makes their transportation purchases based on what is most chic, not most safe, should have had themselves sterilized before they could give birth to and endanger children to serve their own narcissism.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 7, 2004 3:50 PM

There are factors that make them less safe (like tendency to roll), and factors that make them more safe (like better visibility, more weight, etc.). On the whole, my understanding is that they are much more safe than small cars.

But, in any case, safety is only one issue. It isn't the case that the only factor a parent making a decision should consider is which option is more safe. It's more "safe" to stay home than to travel anywhere (except, perhaps, the emergency room...) but there are good reasons to choose to travel. Likewise, when choosing a vehicle the parent has other issues to consider, including comfort, utility, and yes even aesthetics.

Posted by: Gil at February 8, 2004 3:46 PM

"On the whole, my understanding is that they are much more safe than small cars."

True, small cars tend to be relatively unsafe when struck by SUVs.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at February 8, 2004 6:14 PM

Exactly, Treach. I love that it's so beyond so many people to concern themselves at all with killing other people with their vehicle. "Okay, as long as we're all alive, so what if some poor schmuck in a Nissan Sentra has to get flattened!"

Posted by: Amy Alkon at February 8, 2004 6:59 PM

"Any parent who makes their transportation purchases based on what is most chic, not most safe, should have had themselves sterilized before they could give birth to and endanger children to serve their own narcissism."

And then,

'I love that it's so beyond so many people to concern themselves at all with killing other people with their vehicle. "Okay, as long as we're all alive, so what if some poor schmuck in a Nissan Sentra has to get flattened!" '

So, Amy, given that there are many large vehicles (including SUVs) on the road today, are you suggesting that one should risk having his children flattened in a Nissan Sentra in order to serve his chic, narcissistic, political expression? To put them at greater risk while serving as an example he hopes others will eventually follow?

Posted by: Gil at February 9, 2004 9:31 AM

Yeah, Amy, everybody's doing it.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at February 9, 2004 4:08 PM

"SUVs have roll-over data comparable to many sedans."

I live in LA and have my own roll-over data from direct experience as a driving commuter.

Number of times I've seen an upside-down SUV on the freeway: 3.

Number of times I've seen an upside-down sedan: 0.

Posted by: Lena at February 11, 2004 11:41 AM