SUV Drivers Loathsome? Judgments Vary

It's understandable for Joe Essid ("Color of the Beasts," Back Page, May 24) to bemoan gaudy yellow Hummers and the ridiculously oversized SUVs that plague Richmond's streets — but he excludes some important reasons to loathe them.

In addition to polluting the planet, which all automobiles do to some extent, it's morally revolting when you recognize studies have shown SUVs kill more people in collisions while (contrary to popular belief) offering their own drivers less protection with increased chances of rollovers.

Think about that next time you see a fresh-faced 16-year-old — not to mention munchkin Stepford wives who can barely see over the wheel — chatting on their cell phones like nut-happy squirrels as they hog the road in their fortified tanks.

From what I've read, the occupant death rate in SUVs is 6 percent higher than it is for cars — 8 percent higher in the largest SUVs, mainly because of the higher risk of rollover (three times greater than other passenger vehicles).

This according to the New York Times' Keith Bradsher: "For every one life saved by driving an SUV, five others will be taken. Government researchers have found that a behemoth like the four-ton Chevy Tahoe kills 122 people for every 1 million models on the road; by comparison, the Honda Accord kills only 21."

According to market research by the country's leading automakers, SUV buyers tend to be "insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities."

Ours seems to be one of the few cultures worldwide with such an ingrained sense of self-importance that we gladly endanger others for our own sense of entitlement — the kind of culture that equates one American soldier's life with 50 dead Iraqi civilians.

C.B. Baldwin

Oh my, how snarky and cool it must be to be you ["If you are going to be a jerk who doesn't give a damn about wrecking the planet, why not flaunt it ...?"]. A Richmond compliment, indeed. I'm a new Richmonder (just 12 years) from the great state of Texas, and my grandmother (of blessed memory) called that a "left-handed compliment."

Intolerance fosters its own pretensions, one of which is the belief that one "has a lock" on all true insight and that all divergent varieties of belief and personal history are pitiful imitations of true reality. Nobody "has a lock" and taking potshots from the imagined high ground always has its own risks.

But, I digress. Trashing Richmond is way too easy for that to be the indicator of credibility (much less superiority).

The Hummer used in "Evan Almighty" helped us maintain a tradition of tripping up visiting stars ("The Score," Street Talk, May 24). I don't think we've had one since Sinatra.

Tracy Hundley


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