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These vehicles are stylish to have, but how safe are they to the public? The Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) is supposed of as one of the safest vehicles on the road today. People out looking for a new vehicle look at the design of a SUV and cannot see why it wouldnt be the best choice. The tall frame of an SUV it gives the driver better visibility and ground clearance.
The optional 4 x 4 makes it better for snow and going off road. Their heavy weight and large body are supposed to make these vehicles tough and durable. Also, the SUV has very similar design to a truck, which appeals more to the public than does a van or minivan. Though these characteristics of an SUV are supposed to make them safe, they actually make SUVs very dangerous to drive. Overall safety on American roads has increased over the last decade.
However, sport utility vehicles threaten to reverse the trend. When it comes to safety, SUVs may be the most dangerous vehicles on the road, and the road is exactly the place they should not be. Sports utility vehicles are supposedly designed for off road driving. It seems like the bigger the body is on a SUV, the more popular it is, which is causing the manufacturers of these SUVs to come up with even larger models. So, the SUVs that we see on the roads today are still a normal size car compared to the coming future models. With huge bodies and very low safety features sports utility vehicles are being used for a different purpose than what they where intended for, being an off road vehicle.
This causes problems with driving them on the road. Their huge bodies make it hard for other cars to have a clear view of the road they are traveling on. It is very difficult for others to see around a sports utility vehicle. When an SUV like a Chevrolet Suburban, Yukon, or Ford Expedition is backing up from a parking spot, the driver of the SUV cannot see objects located directly behind them. The driver of these massive vehicles have very poor vision to the rear and also cause visibility problems for other drivers; sports utility vehicles might be safe to some extent as far a forward visibility but that only applies to the passengers and the driver in that vehicle.
Braking has also become a big issue; because of the weight of the SUV it results in much longer stopping distance. In fact, drivers of SUVs were warned by the U. S. Government to stay further back from other cars for safety reasons. As accidents and injuries associated with failure to stop quickly continue to rise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has told owners of certain SUVs to drive cautiously, leave an extra margin of safety in front of their vehicle (NHTSA homepage). Moreover, the problems with handling does not stop with driving in good conditions, in fast SUVs perform even worse in bad conditions compared to other vehicles.
The SUVs' poor brakes and portly weight make them more difficult to stop in rain and snow. Many people get a false sense of security from their SUVs because they " ve been told that SUVs handle well in snow. This is not to say the vehicle cannot drive though snow as well as a truck but, the problem is that stopping distance is sacrificed. SUVs dont just pose some serious safety problems for occupants, SUVs are also greatly increasing the danger on our roads for drivers and passengers in other cars.
The increased damage to a car from an SUV results from the design. Let's say an accident was about to take place; the vehicles involved would be a Lincoln Navigator and a normal family sedan. The chances of survival for the passengers in the sedan would be 4 times less (Dateline) than the passengers in the SUV. On, average, SUVs are designed to ride eight inches higher than a most cars (J. Muller, 2).
SUVs also have a much more rigid and heavy frame using two steel rails instead of the one used by passenger cars (IIFHS homepage). Consumer Reports says, Were also concerned about what happens to cars that collide with SUVs. Many SUVs have rigid frames and high bumpers, and they weigh much more than similar-sized cars. In a collision, they can override a cars bumpers and crumple the passenger compartment, killing or maiming the cars occupants. More people have been killed in crashes between a car and a light truck, such as an SUV, than in crashes between two cars even though two car crashes are more common, and there are twice as many cars as light trucks on the road (Consumer Reports homepage). Due to the tall chassis that the body of the vehicles are mounted on, the risk of flipping is very high.
The propensity of SUVs to roll over is a major safety concern. SUVs are over three times more likely to roll over in a crash than a passenger car (Link Staff 1, 4), which leads to higher fatalities. According to NHTSA, SUVs rollover in 37 percent of fatal crashes, compared to a 15 percent rollover rate for passenger cars (NHTSA homepage). Rollover crashes accounted for 53 percent of all SUV occupant deaths in single vehicle crashes in 1996 (Stoller).
Only 19 percent of occupant fatalities in passenger cars occurred in similar crashes (Stoller). SUVs are also prone to friction rollovers. A friction rollover happens when the friction generated by the tires when turning a corner hard becomes high enough to cause the center of gravity to extend over its base. Most passenger vehicles cannot roll over this way, unless tripped by a curb. In other words, if the driver steers too hard, the SUV can tip over.
The NHTSA considered establishing some laws like, lowering the center of gravity of SUVs, adding adjustable suspension, rollover sensors and side airbags to protect against SUV rollovers but the ideas were rejected by law makers due to the cost (NHTSA homepage). Ford Motor Co. does offer an SUV with these options though they are not standard (C. Reports). A sports utility vehicle is nothing but a mini van body on a 4 x 4 -truck frame. A mini van or a full size van serves exactly the same purpose as a sports utility vehicle does.
However and the vans are much safer and consume much less gasoline. Another reason why SUVs are not safe is because of their effect on the environment. SUVs have extremely poor fuel economy. Oil today is a natural resource that will only last for 45 more years and federal law permits a double standard between SUVs and cars, SUVs are allowed to use 33 percent more gasoline than passenger cars. A sports utility vehicle with an engine size of 5. 7 liters has a gasoline mileage equivalent to two Toyota Camry's and one Honda Civic combined. Another double standard exists for air pollution of SUVs and light trucks.
SUVs are allowed by law to emit 30 percent more carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxides (Link Staff 2, 6). According to the SUV Info Link, Since, 1990, the inefficiency of light trucks has led to Americans wasting an extra 70 billion gallons of gasoline. For each gallon of gasoline burned, nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted. An extra 6 pounds of carbon dioxide are released in the gasoline refining process for each gallon produced (Link Staff 2, 5) The SUV Info Link also said, Many SUVs feature larger engines and four wheel drive capacity.
However, for the vast majority of drivers, four-wheel drive and large engines is an unnecessary, unused, and expensive feature. According to Ford Motor Co. , 87 percent of Ford Explorer owners have never taken their vehicle off-road. (Link Staff 2, 5) The reason why a number of people choose a SUV as their vehicle is because they need to be able to tow. In order to tow a trailer that is more than 3000 pounds, then a large SUV is a good choice. However if the trailer is less than 3000 pounds, and most towing loads are, there are many mini vans that can handle this load. The Chevrolet venture tows 3500 pounds and the Pontiac trans port tows 3000, for example (C. Reports).
Mini vans and some wagons have more usable space than SUVs of comparable size. Interior space is sacrificed when SUV bodies are designed around truck frames or other 4 WD systems. Though few will admit it, many poseurs think that their SUV gives them a tough, independent image instead of the "soccer mom" or "married man" image of a mini van or wagon. While this might have been true a few years ago before this trend started, now an SUV says the same thing as if they still owed the mini van or wagon. If we take into consideration why so many people prefer SUVs to any other kind of vehicle, we will find that this happen just because of a simple trend, which is created by auto industries. Just when sports cars and family sedans were appealing both to the public and the NHTSA along with other automotive lawmakers, the SUV craze started.
Top-heavy Explorers and Pathfinders are replacing Taurus SHOs, Nissan 300 zx's, and other sedans. The new Ford Excursion will be introduced for the year 2001, weighing in at 8, 500 pound, 19 feet long and 6 feet wide, will be the largest SUV on the market. It will have an even higher chassis, weigh more than almost every other vehicle on the road, and have an even lower fuel economy. With todays SUVs are growing ever larger; automakers have begun a war on making the most massive vehicle. In the end, the result of this race may finish with having an overall lower highway safety. Bibliography:
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