Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why SUV's Scare Me

When I was little, I can vividly remember days when our tiny little mountain town was forced to shut down because of a big snow storm. My Dad would start up the old International truck, lock the hubs, and we'd set off through the winter wonderland to run errands of mercy for those friends who weren't fortunate enough to have a four wheel drive vehicle.

During those treks through the lumpy mounds of snow left by the plows, the only other vehicles we saw on the road were other enormous gas hogs just like ours. Their drivers, like my dad, would navigate the icy roadways at a fraction of the normal speed with almost exaggerated care. There was no speeding. There was barely any braking at all. Curves were a complex affair of wheel angles, trajectories, and maybe even a prayer or two. And going anywhere took hours. Which was okay, because it was an amazing experience to be out and about with all the big rigs and the snow plows, no other drivers in sight.

Enter the front wheel drive vehicle. Okay, so we were still tooling around in our gas guzzling tank truck with the rusted quarter panels and roaring engine. But there were a few more cars on the road. Sure, we usually wound up pulling their butts out of the ditch, but for the most part they were damn careful about what they did that might get them stuck in there to begin with. After all, a car might move a bit better when pulling itself like a toddler doing the army crawl, but it still slips around and lets you know its doing it.

Enter the SUV. Okay, so now everyone has four wheel drive. I'm not saying that some people are not capable of using it wisely, but really people, USE YOUR EFFING BRAINS! It's fantastic that Average Joe family doesn't have to be stranded at home during a snow storm. Although I have to admit that the neighborly aspect of helping someone out when they're snowed in becomes lost to modern convenience. But I get it, we're Americans. We like our cars and our independence. And dammit all to hell, a few feet of snow is not going to stop us from returning our Red Box DVD on time, or grabbing a carton of cigarettes, or picking up a dozen donuts, or (insert mundane, unnecessary activity here).

Having a truck on hand in just in my blood. My current carbon footprint stomping monster is a 3/4 ton diesel that barely needs 4WD in any weather as long as the tires are in good shape. Only the worst days keep me home from the barn where my equine friends depend on me for food and water. And I've been known to shuttle a few friends to work and such when the need arises. But I must admit that the other drivers on the road during bad weather are simply unnerving!

Those two wheel drive folks are still out there. I see them as they carefully maneuver their fishtailing vehicle at a quarter or less of the posted speed limit. Those other gas guzzler drivers are out there too, chugging down the road without any intention of hurrying. But those SUV drivers are absolutely insane!

After careful observation, I've come to the conclusion that they push the 4WD button before they even leave the warmth of their heated and insulated garages. They've got no idea the road is slippery in the least because their sport utility-can't-tell-if-its-a-car-or-a-truck-cause-it-looks-like-both seems to be flying along just great. Okay fine. So you didn't slip when you hit the gas pedal and quickly accelerated to the ten miles OVER the speed limit you travel on sunny days when the roads are dry. This does not mean your should come roaring off the highway and try to slam on the brakes at the intersection. It does not mean your should try to catch the light by turning in front of oncoming traffic. And it definitely doesn't mean you should run around changing lanes by cutting off someone and assuming they can get stopped before they run you down.

Now before you go and get your knickers in a twist and send me flaming emails about how you don't drive like that and how can I justify, encourage, and even promote the use of fossil fuel hogging monster trucks, remember that I may not be talking about your driving. Maybe I'm talking about the guy who hit you last week, or the neighbor that ran down your mailbox last month. This weather seems to BREED stupid drivers. It just seems to me that the SUV phenomenon sweeping America gives people a false sense of security.

So please, whether or not you're driving a SUV, a front wheel drive car, or even a four wheel drive monster truck, be careful out there people. Snow only looks soft until you ram your (insert vehicle make and model here) into a pile of it at forty miles an hour. After that even the snow angels have bent halos.

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