(to the tune of A-B-C by the Jackson Five, apologies in advance)
M-P-G…it’s low on my S-U-V…but don’t say that you’re better than me, unless you regular-ly, commute bi-ped-al-ly while hugging a tree!
I read a story recently about a television commercial that equated driving an SUV with supporting terrorism. The ads are using the same idea as the the ones about drugs supporting terrorism (I actually sort of agree with the drug ads). The logic is that a) SUV’s are less fuel effecient, so b) SUV drivers buy more gas, and c) most gas comes from Middle-Eastern oil, so d) the dollars we spend on gasoline support Arab terrorism. I drive an SUV. A big old four wheel drive Ford Expedition. It gets about 13 miles to the gallon during my regular commute. I would prefer that it were more fuel efficient, but fuel efficiency was just one of my selection criteria.
My first selection criteria was the safety of my family. The Expedition outweighs the majority of personal vehicles on the road, which means that it transfers more energy than it absorbs if there is a collision. If you’re unsure about the physics of that, think of an 18 wheeler colliding with a VW Bug and think about which would sustain the most damage. This means that in most accidents the occupants of my vehicle would have a slightly higher survival rate. Also, I sit way up high while driving, giving me very good visibility of the traffic around me. This provides slightly better odds of not getting into an accident in the first place. I live in Houston, which is prone to flooding, so the four wheel drive provides slightly better capabilities of slogging through racing water in order to escape danger. Also, the high ground clearance provides the ability to handle higher water without the engine dying. Also, being such a big vehicle means that people are more likely to be able to see me, and thus not run into me, if avoidable. And, while Fords are not nearly as reliable as some other cars, the Expedition is a reasonably reliable vehicle, according to Consumer Reports, so there’s a slightly lower chance of being stranded compared to some other makes/models.
Now, none of this guarantees anything, but it’s all about playing the odds. I have stacked the deck in favor of me and the occupants of my vehicle (usually my family) being more likely to avoid an accident, and to survive an accident if it occurs, than someone in a smaller, lighter, lower vehicle.
The second most important factor in selecting the Expedition was personal comfort. I’m 6′ 5″ and not small and I fit perfectly in an Expedition. I fit okay in my wife’s Toyota Tundra pickup, but am a bit cramped and not comfortable on longer drives. We have done a bit of vehicle shopping over the years, and the list of vehicles that I am comfortable in is very short. And that’s comfortable as in physical comfort and