Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Advertisements
Advertisements

SUVs and Earth Day do not mix

Madison has joined the list of cities all across America where citizens have risen up against the owners of Sport Utility Vehicles. While I find the scope of the attack on these polluters limited, the fact is, all politics is local. If you can’t protest Exxon headquarters, why not make it known that their largest supporters about town are unappreciated. Someone in this city has a bone to pick with SUVs, and earlier this week they made those views known.

If I had to take a poll, I think with the exception of a few rural communities out West, there are probably people who hate SUVs in every city in America. After all, the reasons to dislike SUVs far outweigh their usefulness.

The vandals that let the air out of the tires of SUVs in the Langdon Street neighborhood on Monday were careful, fairly non-destructive and highly organized. Their method of letting air out of the tires involved no damage to the tire, and the replacement of the tire cap will cost each owner about $1.75. That’s fairly reasonable, considering methods of vandalism in other towns have included spray paint, glass etching chemicals and homemade napalm.

Advertisements

As of the writing of this article, no one has claimed responsibility for the acts, and there is just as much chance that this was a fraternity prank or simply an isolated act than an organized attack. Personally, I hope someone does take credit for it and does so in an intellectually responsible fashion. After all, if there isn’t a message with the vandalism, it’s just property damage.

SUVs are a touchy subject because they involve class. After all, the average American can’t afford an SUV, and it’s positively certain that the average college student can’t either. When SUV owners are the victims of vigilantes, they claim jealously or class envy. While it’s true that the average environmentalist may not be able to afford an SUV (and if they are true to their beliefs, wouldn’t buy one anyway), it really isn’t the issue. The point being made is that the people with the greatest means to help the environment are doing the most possible damage to it. The fact is that SUVs are giant, polluting, pointless vehicles.

SUVs pump out 237 million tons of global-warming pollution into our atmosphere each year. One Ford Excursion alone will pump out 134 tons of CO2 over a 124,000 mile lifetime, compared to the 27 tons a Honda Insight will produce. Fewer than 5 percent of SUV owners will ever take their vehicles off road (and good luck getting back when you run out of gas).

John Runge, administrator of the National Highway and Safety Transportation Board, said in reference to the abysmal roll-over performance of SUVs, “I wouldn’t let my kid buy a two-star rollover vehicle if it was the last one on earth.”

The latest federal data available show that in 2001, SUVs were involved in 10.2 percent of fatal crashes. SUVs kill more people than died in the World Trade Center every year. It is far more dangerous to be in an accident with an SUV. Government researchers have found that a behemoth like the four-ton Chevy Tahoe kills 122 people for every 1 million models on the road; by comparison, the Honda Accord only kills 21. Injuries in SUV-related accidents are likewise more severe.

However, you aren’t safer in an SUV overall if there is an accident. The occupant death rate in SUVs is 6 percent higher than it is for cars — 8 percent higher in the largest SUVs.

If it wasn’t bad enough that SUVs are dangerous and polluting, many people have a nagging feeling that SUV drivers themselves are annoying. Well, don’t let that voice in your head go unheeded. According to those very same drivers, they are.

Market research conducted by auto makers found SUV drivers tend to be “insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities.”

Regulating SUVs sounds un-American, and it certainly won’t get done by the U.S. government. It was private citizens that made the auto industry add safety features such as seat belts.

In celebration of Earth Day, some ecologically-minded people let the air out of the tires of the worst cars on the road. While a demonstration or a teach-in may have been less confrontational, the owners of those SUVs were certainly given pause. Maybe we should all take pause and consider whether something as dangerous and environmentally damaging as the SUV has a place on America’s roads.

Information for this article was gathered from Keith Bradsher’s excellent book “High and Mighty: The World’s Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way,” the NHTSB and other sources.

Rob Deters ([email protected]) is a first-year law student.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *