When we talk about SUVs, pickup trucks and other oversized vehicles, it is safe to say that large just got larger. Unarguably, if one has five kids, several large dogs and a pet elephant, vehicles like the “Escalade” or the “Avalanche” might be somewhat justifiable choices. The average driver in the greater Los Angeles area, however, does not even come close to utilizing the full potential of oversized vehicles. Realistically, if someone needed to help your roommate move into a new apartment, couldn’t they just go and rent a U-Haul truck?
This column does not advocate that everyone should go electric, but that people should be a bit more responsible in their choices in respect to the health and safety of individuals, as well as in protecting the environment.
My negative sentiments in regard to oversized vehicles are not simply a response to the decadent lifestyle they represent, but an outright criticism of their downfall as inefficient and hazardous modes of transportation.
As the driver of a small car, one of my biggest concerns on the road is that large vehicles, such as SUVs and pickup trucks, obstruct visibility. Because they limit visibility, oversized vehicles increase the risk of collisions. Ironically, most SUV drivers operate under the assumption that large vehicles are safer to drive. This familiar “bigger is better (safer) logic” does not take into consideration the safety of the other not-so-big passenger cars on the road.
According to the Sport Utility Info Link, as discussed in a 2003 CNN report detailing the supposed safety of large vehicles, SUVs are responsible for substantially more fatalities than mid-sized or large cars. Due to their high center of gravity, SUVs are more likely to roll during rapid lane changes and sharp turns. According to data from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, SUV rollovers have three times the fatality rate as do small cars. In addition, SUVs’ greater size and weight is a prerequisite for greater damage in side collisions with smaller cars.
My second concern in regard to oversized vehicles is their gas guzzling. I often hear students on campus complain about the high cost of tuition and books, and yet they drive home in their empty, spotless pickup trucks and SUVs. If college students are truly concerned about their budgets, they should take into account that large vehicles cost more to repair, have higher monthly payments, and are a significant expense in terms of gas.
Another issue associated with high gas consumption is the topography of the Los Angeles basin, which is in and of itself a factor for smog formation. Do we need to make the situation even worse by putting more harmful emissions into the air?
Come to think of it, SUVs should come with a label that reads: “Warning: Side effects of using this product include fatal crashes, poor health and depleted budget.”
Many have tried to reason with Americans’ obsession with large vehicles. One of the most convincing explanations comes from David Goewey in his humorously titled article, “Careful, you may run out of planet.” Goewey discusses Americans’ fascination with the romanticized notion of the frontier, and according to him, large vehicles appeal to peoples’ desire to explore and take over nature, much like our ancestors did when they established this nation. If any college students, however, are living themselves up as Lewis and Clark, however, it is of vital importance to note that the frontier has already been conquered.
While it is true that commuting and meandering through traffic can be a rather arduous task, it hardly comes close to crossing the Great Plains. What calls for the “Expedition,” the “Adventure” or the “Pathfinder?” After all, the Valley is hardly the tropical savanna, much less the Arctic tundra. I can’t help but wonder if there truly is anything to conquer on Nordhoff Street.
Vessela Papazova is a senior interdisciplinary major.