owners should know limitations of
are once again in the crosshairs -
accused of being "unsafe"
because they continue to be involved
in a higher number of rollover-type
accidents than ordinary passenger
issue can be looked at several ways
- but the determinative factor in
rollover-type accidents is very often
not the SUVs themselves. Rather, it's
the way SUVs are sometimes driven.
Specifically, they way they are often
driven inappropriately by people who
don't appreciate and respect the built-in
limitations of these special-purpose
passenger cars, SUVs are not designed
for safe high-speed driving - or for
high-load cornering and abrupt lane-changing
maneuvers. These are not indications
of "defective design," however,
but a consequence of the built-in
features like high ground clearance
and mud/snow-rated tires that give
SUVs an advantage off-road in heavy
snow and on rough, unpaved roads.
off-road advantages also put SUVs
at a distinct disadvantage in highway
driving compared to conventional passenger
cars, which have a lower ride height
and center of gravity, as well as
suspension systems and tires designed
primarily for on-street driving.
with respect for their unique capabilities
and the limitations they impose, however,
SUVs are no more dangerous than sports
cars - which are just as vulnerable
when driven in heavy snow or on rocky
unpaved backwoods trails.
while most people understand the built-in
limitations of sports cars, you rarely
hear of a person attempting to take
his Corvette on a hunting trip and
subsequently complaining because it
slid off the mountain or got hung
up on a rock.
contrast, SUV owners regularly ignore
the built-in design limitations of
their SUVs and drive them no differently
than they would a passenger car -
or even a high-performance sports
out on any road and you'll see them
all around you - SUVs buzzing along
at 120, 130 kilometers per hour (or
faster), their drivers weaving in
and out of traffic, one hand on the
wheel, the other clutching a cell
the problem lies with the way SUVs
are driven - not with the SUVs themselves.
of the problem is that SUVs have become
mass-market vehicles that have been
sold to the general public as no different
in their driving dynamics than passenger
cars. Their on-street limitations
are deliberately played down - or
ignored entirely - while their "fun
to drive" qualities are played
SUVs are also deceptively easy to
drive - and to drive excessively fast.
As a result, many people are driving
SUVs well beyond the "safety
zone" and their own ability to
correct for driving mistakes.
mess is only going to get worse as
the number of SUVs on the road increases.
SUVs have grown from about 5 percent
of all new vehicle sales to more than
50 percent today. As their popularity
grows, so also will the number of
needless accidents involving SUVs.
this will require two things - neither
of which is a new law or mandated
piece of costly add-on "safety"
equipment to idiot-proof SUVs.
automakers must begin educating motorists
about the inherent limitations of
off-road vehicles - warning about
their minuses as well as applauding
SUV owners need to respect the built-in
limitations of their special-purpose
vehicles and learn to drive them within
their "safety zone" - no
more cruising along in heavy traffic
at 120kph or more, no zipping around
corners at well above the posted speed
limit. And no more tailgating so close
that you have to swerve violently
to avoid a rear-ender when the car
ahead brakes suddenly.
little common sense will go a long
way in keeping SUVs upright and safe.