As the world burns, Americans buy bigger cars
The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, stresses that it’s misleading to assume SUVs are safer than sedans: “There is a perception that simply because something is bigger it is safer. The data doesn’t actually back that up on a class level.” SUVs are no longer as prone to fatal rollovers thanks to electronic stability control, but their high center of gravity can still make them less stable.
“When a pedestrian is hit by a moving vehicle, the taller that vehicle is, the more dangerous it is,” says Levine. “All other things being equal, the taller the vehicle, the harder it is for the driver to be able to see pedestrians and to stop themselves from hitting pedestrians, and that is a problem that you see day after day.”
By Marina Bolotnikova
Mar 11, 2020
As a kid, I was furious about SUVs with a passion that now seems embarrassing, telling all the suburban adults I knew that their ugly, gas-guzzling tanks were going to end life on Earth. I didn’t come up with this idea myself: Anti-SUV discourse was everywhere. Mainstream organizations like the Sierra Club — which famously renamed the huge Ford Excursion “Ford Valdez” after the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill — helped create a cultural backlash against these hulking cars. A TV ad campaign run by the Evangelical Environmental Network — “What Would Jesus Drive?” — urged Midwesterners to rethink their addiction to big cars. New York Times reporter Keith Bradsher’s 2002 polemic High and Mighty sneered at the rise of “behemoths that guzzle gas, spew pollution, and endanger their occupants and other motorists.”
Twenty years on, international alarm about climate change may be higher than ever, but the SUVs have won. The crossover, a generally smaller, more modern kind of SUV, has exploded in popularity since the Great Recession. Their better gas mileage compared to earlier SUVs combined with car industry greenwashing and the widely held perception that big cars are safer — even as they’ve made the streets more dangerous for pedestrians — have helped make crossovers America’s biggest car segment, displacing sedans as the default choice for many drivers.
Also known as crossover utility vehicles or CUVs, crossovers were barely on the scene at the turn of the century, but they now make up more than 40 percent of the American market for new cars. Sedan sales have plummeted over the same period: Where passenger cars represented half of car sales just a decade ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, they fell to less than a third by the end of 2018. At the end of 2019, while Australia was ablaze, Honda closed its best year ever for its CR-V crossover, now its top-selling car in the US.
“Car companies kind of neutralized the critique of SUVs when they introduced crossovers,” says Angie Schmitt, a former reporter for transit publication Streetsblog who is writing a book about the pedestrian safety crisis. “I think crossovers are definitely not as bad as full-size SUVs, and people get that. A lot of people who would never buy a full-size SUV have bought these crossovers, otherwise they’d probably be in sedans.”
Read the full story from Vox.