July 14, 2003


Reader Neil L. locates some anti-SUV hate speech in the Melbourne Age:

Four-wheel-drive buyers are making themselves safer, but the cost is being borne by other road users. For every serious injury or death that is saved by buying a four-wheel-drive, nearly three more result.

Writes Neil: “This, statistically, means that for every new 4WD owner for the last ten years, the death/injury rate has climbed by 200% (1 saved, 3 result).

”Given the rate of sales of 4WDs as a proportion of all vehicle sales over the last 10 years, does that not mean that the motor vehicle death/injury rate Australia-wide has increased due to the uptake of 4WD vehicles?

”No.The death/injury rate has fallen, not risen, despite many more 4WDs on the road.”

Maybe The Age is including deaths caused by worry over 4WDs. Such as is killing the staff of the eternally-alarmist Age.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 14, 2003 11:42 AM

This is statistically asinine, although seeing its source that is unsurprising. I sincerely doubt that the report says what the author claims. It verges on the numerically impossible. In all probablity, the ass grabbed two different statistical analyses and conflated them. Of course, if you're attempting to make SUVs (I dont' drive one) look bad, this is about the only way to do it, safety-wise.

For instance the rollover controversy. Supposedly SUVs are more rollover prone and kill more in such accidents. In fact, the probablity of dying in and SUV is lower that in passenger care, provided YOU WEAE THE DAMN SEATBELTS that come pre-installed.

Turns out the rollover problem with SUVs is the usual. The nut holding the wheel. Those who believe that SUVs are invulnerable or are sports cars are likely to get into trouble, especially if they don't wear their seatbelts. They drive a vehicle with a higher center of gravity as if it were a sports car. Result: rollover. Possibly a Darwin award (a very minor one, to be sure, because this is such run-of-the-mill stupidity).

Given that I know a policeman who, as a part-time EMT, managed to roll an ambulance (tight radius on-ramp, excessive speed), it is hardly unusual that SUVs will have particular types of accidents.

The other side of this is the supposed increase in deaths due to SUV/auto collisions. Let's be honest. If you hit (or it hits you) something 50% heavier than otherwise expected, more damage will result. End of story.

Well, I know you know this Tim, but it needed to be said.

What an assclown.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at July 14, 2003 at 11:57 AM

Further to JorgXMcKie, while not negating the high cnetre of gravity altogether, the widening of of SUVs has, none-the-less made them safer on that count, so long as the driver drives the SUV to specification, and not as sedan, let alone as a sportscar.

Posted by: d at July 14, 2003 at 03:40 PM

They can have mine when they pry the steering wheel from my cold, dead fingers!

Posted by: BruceT at July 14, 2003 at 04:55 PM

What the fuck does 4WD have to do with anything? There are SUVs that are not 4WD, and non-SUVs that are 4WD. Just what the hell is a 4WD vehicle, according to this article??

Posted by: Brad at July 14, 2003 at 04:57 PM

That's what they call SUV's in Australia.

Posted by: Yobbo at July 14, 2003 at 05:11 PM

I like this - I go and buy a very modest 4WD vehicle - highly rated in safety tests and all the things you are meant to check before you buy a car and suddenly I am the scum of the earth.

Anyone would think that I was using my "SUV" to beat baby seals to death.

Posted by: dan at July 14, 2003 at 05:47 PM

They have failed to subtract out the deaths from collisions with more than one SUV at a time. It's the same guy getting hit by all of them.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at July 14, 2003 at 07:37 PM

I drive a Daihatsu Charade. I've been hit by a 4WD at low speed, while I was stationary. It barely scratched his paintwork, and nearly totalled both my car and myself.

Yes, anecdote is not the singular of data, and the statistics in the article sound dodgy, but from my own experience, damn great 4WDs may be good at protecting their owners, but are even better at killing other people.

Of course said owners have the right to drive 4WDs, and I wouldn't want to claim otherwise. But in the same spirit, I think I'll install some anti-tank mines with insensitive fuses on the outside of my car. It won't make me any safer, but at least it will guarantee the death of both of us rather than just me.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at July 14, 2003 at 09:19 PM

"I drive a Daihatsu Charade. I've been hit by a 4WD at low speed, while I was stationary. It barely scratched his paintwork, and nearly totalled both my car and myself."

Good thing the Charade was totalled. Now you can buy an SUV and get around safely without resorting to explosives.

Posted by: T. Hartin at July 14, 2003 at 10:11 PM

Anyone would think that I was using my "SUV" to beat baby seals to death.

License plate frame spotted on a green van in Sillycon Valley with Idaho plates:

"I'd rather be clubbing baby seals"

Posted by: Bashir Gemayel at July 14, 2003 at 11:43 PM

The fall in the road toll could be in spite of the increase in 4WDs, as the governments have been as busy as heck on discouraging people from drink driving, speeding or driving while tired (you know the NSW government is determined when they use Karl K. to argue against driving while tired).

As for me, I commute in something even larger than 4WDs - a train.

Posted by: Andjam at July 15, 2003 at 12:01 AM

I don't use my SUV to club baby seals but I do use it to drive to the California coast, whereupon I give my Louisville Slugger a workout on both adult and baby seals.

Posted by: Tongue Boy at July 15, 2003 at 12:03 AM

Your Daihatsu got totalled? Man did you a favor.

"...damn great 4WDs may be good at protecting their owners, but are even better at killing other people."

I'm getting one!

Posted by: Andrea Harris at July 15, 2003 at 01:58 AM

it's too bad i don't need (and can't afford) a new vehicle right now. all this hate directed towards SUV owners makes me wanna buy one just to piss off the anti-SUVists.

Posted by: Samkit at July 15, 2003 at 04:01 AM

I don't know how crash-worthy Charades are in general, but I'm pretty sure Yugos could be totalled by being leant on by bystanders. Cheap tinfoil. Not even good for hats.

P.S. Here in Michigan most SUV drivers use theirs to produce baby oil, by driving over and squashing the oil out of babies.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at July 15, 2003 at 07:26 AM

As someone who has been driving for 25 years without being booked, and without being in a car accident (other than as a passenger), surely I am entitled to think that the balance of risk of a car accident has swung towards some idiot crashing into ME, rather than me crashing into THEM. That being the case, it would seem prudent for me to protect myself by getting an SUV, preferably one with buffalo horns at the front to match my Texas belt-buckle. I must trade in my Hyundai immediately...

Now if someone hurts themselves because they choose to run into my newly purchased SUV, then that is unfortunate, but if indeed it is their fault, then I'll be glad that I was protected.

The key here is that if these cars are dangerous to other people, then a higher level license should be required, or x years of driving experience, before one is allowed to drive one. We don't let P-platers drive 24 wheelers through our suburbs do we?

Posted by: Geoffrey McCowage at July 15, 2003 at 09:46 AM

This baby seal walks into a club...

Posted by: Patrick at July 15, 2003 at 07:09 PM

Of course the great American study into rollovers found that the most likely car to roll over is...
The Corvette. About as low and close to the ground as you can get.

Number two was the Mustang.

It has nothing to do with the car design, it is how fast you take that off camber corner and oversteer into the drainage ditch.

Possibly more likely on a bush track, where you would be in a 4wd.

(I speak as someone who has spun a Holden Jackaroo (Isuzu Trooper for the foriegn amoung you) once or twice.)

Posted by: Patrick at July 15, 2003 at 07:14 PM