- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

Does anyone really need an SUV? Maybe, maybe not but that's beside the point. One can take most of the arguments directed against SUVs and make them just as easily against sports cars or big luxury cars, for that matter. Does anyone really need a big V-8 engine? The capability to exceed the lawful maximum speed limit? All those luxury features?
If need is going to become the standard by which the automakers are allowed to build vehicles, then we'll all be reduced to driving something very small, with the bare minimum power necessary and no frivolous features designed according to the dictates of a few would-be car czars in Washington and New York City, who don't mind forcing their idea of the appropriate car upon the rest of country.
That's the core issue at the heart of the persistent attacks on SUVs from New York City editorial writers and Washington busybodies.
Not safety. The overwhelming majority of SUVs are well-designed and only prone to roll over or become unstable if driven negligently. Even during the Firestone tire debacle of last year, it was a combination of excessive high speed 80 mph and faster for sustained periods of time and problem tires that caused the much-publicized accidents involving the Ford Explorer SUV, not a design defect in the truck itself. Like sports cars, minivans and pickups, SUVs are specialty vehicles that offer certain capabilities most other vehicles don't. And, like sports cars and other specialty vehicles, if driven responsibly, present no unusual or high risk. No one blames a sports-car manufacturer if some idiot wrecks it driving 140-mph on a crowded freeway. So why are SUVs considered dangerous when some idiot rolls one taking a freeway off-ramp at 20 mph above the posted speed limit?
Not emissions. Most recent model SUVs operate so cleanly they meet or even exceed the federal government's low-emissions and even ultra-low-emissions standards. SUV engines do produce more carbon dioxide than small economy cars. But the idea that carbon dioxide a harmless, inert gas is a pollutant is more politics than science. And large luxury sedans, big wagons, minivans and pickups also produce SUV-like quantities of carbon dioxide. But, somehow, only SUVs seem to be a threat to the environment (at least for now).
It all comes down to choice. Whose shall it be? The consumer's according to his needs and wants? Or someone in New York or Washington who believes he has the right to take that choice away?


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