January 16th, 2003

Bama Eyes, Bama Staredown

Anti SUV Jihad

I hate SUV's.

Used to, you'd only occasionally see one going down the road, and even then it was an S10 Blazer or other miniature version of one about half the time. Back in the 80's, an SUV was nothing but a pickup truck without the open bed. As such, a few of my redneck buddies would have one, but in general SUV's were looked down upon as a work vehicle, the same way that trucks have up until very recently.

Now, however, SUV's are no longer Sport Utility Vehicles. The closest thing to off-road that most of these things get is when they accidentally hit the curb when they're leaving the mall. I'd be willing to bet that the vast majority of them have never been off the pavement once. Likewise, how many SUV owners do you know that hook up a trailer to their vehicle and use it to tow shit with? Not many. They have always been designed to be powerful work vehicles. The Hummer in particular was designed to be a rugged, all terrain war vehicle.

All SUV's are nowadays are station wagons. Instead of the middle-aged American couple loading their kids up in the wood paneled family vehicle, now they load them up into the SUV. From watching the commercials, I've discovered that the newer ones have TV's and DVD players in the back, and instead of the cargo area, have a third row of seats. In other words, it's no longer a SUV, it's a freakin Astro Van. Bah. It looks like to me that they are being build specifically to be as big and as gaudy as humanly possible. Before long, Peterbuilt or Freightliner is going to sell out, and start selling their 18-wheelers (sans the trailer) as a special edition "super SUV".

My private school was filled with "redneck preps", despite the fact that such a pairing should be impossible. I've always hated people like that. They wanted to be cool, so they'd buy a huge pickup with a $10,000 custom paint job and mud tires and filled the winshield wiper fluid resevoir with French perfume. They would have the huge crome tool boxes in the bed, but not own a single tool - the boxes would usually be empty, except for their bookbag. My question is simply "Why"? Why would anyone spend so much money on something they not only don't need, but have no intention of ever using? There's nothing wrong with trucks. In fact, I love them to death. But then again, I've made enough money hauling loads for people (or saving money by being able to do it myself) to have paid for my truck several times over. Also, though I don't get to do if often, I love taking my truck out mudriding. Hell, I lived on a dirt road for most of my life - sometimes having those big tires were the only thing that allowed me to get in our out of my neighborhood after a big washout. And I don't even have mud tires; mine are all-terrain, useful on pavement as well as off road. The "redneck preps" always got the biggest mud tires they could, despite the fact that the soft rubber those kinds of tires are made of gets torn to pieces if you regularly ride on pavement.

SUV's embody this same type of mentality, only on a much larger scale. The average SUV owner does't pack it down with heavy loads or tow things back and forth with it; quite the contrary, SUV owners typically baby their vehicles and make sure that nothing happens to them. No one uses their SUV for anything more than just a car. Over half of the SUV owners that I know of either don't have a family of their own, or just use their vehicle for their own needs. If you have a large family (6+ people), then maybe you do need the extra space an SUV provides. Since I don't even think they make minivans anymore (since all an SUV is nowadays is a glorified minivan), a family such as that actually does need a vehicle like this. Just one person using it for their daily driver back and forth to work is ridiculous. It's the same as buying the 24-piece family sized bucket of chicken, when you know full well that you'll only eat three pieces, tops. If you live on really bad dirt roads, or enjoy off-roading as a hobby, or need something to drive to the hunting camp or fishing hole, then yeah, an SUV might make sense. But since these special circumstances account for maybe 5% of the total SUV owners, then why are all these other idiots buying them left and right?

I know this is America, and you have the freedom of choice. But SUV's are bad all around. I can deal with them being annoyingly preppy, but they are dangerous. They roll over all the time, killing their owners. If they happen to slam into another car, the people in that car are likely gonna die. Combine this with the fact that you have terribly poor visibility, and the fact that SUV owners like to talk on their cell phones when driving, and you've got a double whammy. The number of wrecks are gonna go up, and each of those wrecks are going to be more deadly.

On a larger scale, SUV's threaten global security. We're dependent on people who really don't like us for our oil. And I'm not talking about general unfriendliness, I'm talking about flying 747's into skyscrapers unfriendly. We get most of our oil from the Middle East. We are giving them money hand over fist, which they use to build planes and bombs, or fund oppressive governments where torture and starvation are common. The more SUV's we have, the more gas they're gonna need, the more money ends up in bad people's hands. Pretty simple, actually. I just don't understand why I'm the only one pissed off about any of this? I'd think that every single family that has someone shipped off to Iraq for the impending war would be against this. Anyone that's ever been affected by Middle-Eastern terrorists should be against this.

I mean, come on. It's 2003. I drive a 1979 Chevy Silverado. The modern vehicles have nearly 25 years more technology behind them. Yet my truck gets better or equal gas mileage as most of those SUV's. If SUV's got comperable gas mileage with other vehicles, then maybe it wouldn't be quite so bad. There would only be a very slight opportunity cost in driving one of these machines as opposed to a car or any other vehicle. But SUV's chug gas like John chugs a keg. And even if they did get decent gas mileage, there's still the fact that they're around ten times as deadly as a normal car!

Maybe we shouldn't outlaw them all together. Hunters are still going to need to get back into the woods. Large families are still going to exist. There will always be a small group of people who literally need these types of vehicles. That's the reason that they were created in the first place. But the government ought to do something. It's just too bad that they can't because of all the donations that the oil producers made during their election campaigns.

At the very least they should tax the hell out of those vehicles, to make up for the damage they cause on both the local and global levels. Kind of like beer and cigarettes - there are taxes on these items because they can be very bad things if abused. The taxes (often called "sin taxes") are designed to make them less desirable. Likewise, if a new SUV costs literally twice as much as a nice car or truck, then fewer people would buy them that didn't really need them. Also, people should have to get a special license to drive one, instead of just a normal drivers license. Since they are large, unwieldy, dangerous machines, people should have to get a trucker's license to be able to operate one sucessfully. This way, people not seriously interested in these vehicles wouldn't bother with them. Likewise, a 16-year-old kid with a license but no experience couldn't hop into one of these death tanks and accidentally kill someone. In the end, it wouldn't be about restricted access, it would simply be about safety. Driving a large powerful vehicle with a low turn radius and poor visibility requires practice, in much the same way as driving a semi does. In fact, one of the newer SUV's actually requires you to go to truck driving school before you're licensed to drive it. (Not sure whether it was BMW or Mercedes; thespacecow was the one who originally showed me the article. GREAT idea, however).

Anyway, what originally set me off was this article. It is *very* well written, and also has many good links to many studies on SUV usage, ranging from crash tests to scientific data to the psycology of the average SUV owner. Their example is the new Hummer (H2). I almost feel like a hypocrite for saying all this, because I have always thought Hummers were cool. But then again, I was talking about the old millitary-style vehicles, not these new ones. The H2's are just the manufacturer's way of taking advantage of the current SUV craze by offering to the public something that was formerly used by the millitary only. Also, if I had a Hummer, I certainly wouldn't be using it for a daily driver. That tank would just be something fun to fool around with on the weekends or take out into the woods. And when I was driving it, you could be damn sure that I'd be going a good 10 miles under the speed limit as long as there are other cars in sight, so that I wouldn't accidentally kill anyone. I already go pretty slow in my truck. I only imagine I'd be even more careful in an even larger vehicle.

But, as Dennis Miller (one of my heroes) always says, "That's just my opinion...I could be wrong."
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