- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2001

Perhaps you've seen the commercial for Nissan's Pathfinder SUV in which the trucks are used in lieu of horses to play a bracing round of polo. "Not that you would. But you could …"

Then there's the commercial for Mazda's just-introduced Tribute SUV, in which the entire Mazda model lineup storms down a secondary road at high speed, escorting the Tribute, each car violently maneuvering in acrobatic fashion to display the sporty handling attributes of Mazda cars. The Tribute matches these moves, then plows off the pavement to carve its own road.

These ads maybe entertaining but they arguably convey a dangerously misleading message about SUVs. Instead of emphasizing the different ride and handling characteristics of SUVs, these ads imply that SUVs can be driven with wild abandon, as if they were sports cars.

The hype may help the automakers sell more SUVs, but it's also fueling, or at least contributing to, the problem of accidents especially high-speed rollover accidents involving SUVs.

Educating consumers about these facts is critical if SUV accidents are to be kept to a minimum. Driven properly and within their design limits, SUVs do not pose an unreasonable risk. But they must be treated with respect zoom zoom zoom or not.

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