Light as a feather; Stiff as a Board; Safe as an SUV? 

Light as a feather; Stiff as a Board; Safe as an SUV?

I chanced upon this question while on my usual couch-potato’s-excuse-to-learn-something-new-otherwise-known-as-netsurfing activities.

It reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s not so kind take on the horrors that the SUVs have brought upon all of us. Big and Bad: How the SUV Ran Over Automotive Safety had, all but told us not to even think about dishing cash for an SUV. Among Malcolm’s memorable statements:

The truth, underneath all the rationalizations, seemed to be that S.U.V. buyers thought of big, heavy vehicles as safe: they found comfort in being surrounded by so much rubber and steel. To the engineers, of course, that didn't make any sense, either: if consumers really wanted something that was big and heavy and comforting, they ought to buy minivans, since minivans, with their unit-body construction, do much better in accidents than S.U.V.s... But this desire for safety wasn't a rational calculation. It was a feeling.

And just what is this feeling, you ask. Gladwell continues:

"The No. 1 feeling is that everything surrounding you should be round and soft, and should give," Rapaille (as in French-born cultural anthropologist G. Clotaire Rapaille, whose services a number of US automakers have relied on for the past decade) told me. "There should be air bags everywhere. Then there's this notion that you need to be up high. That's a contradiction, because the people who buy these S.U.V.s know at the cortex level that if you are high there is more chance of a rollover. But at the reptilian level they think that if I am bigger and taller I'm safer. You feel secure because you are higher and dominate and look down. That you can look down is psychologically a very powerful notion. And what was the key element of safety when you were a child? It was that your mother fed you, and there was warm liquid. That's why cupholders are absolutely crucial for safety. If there is a car that has no cupholder, it is not safe. If I can put my coffee there, if I can have my food, if everything is round, if it's soft, and if I'm high, then I feel safe. It's amazing that intelligent, educated women will look at a car and the first thing they will look at is how many cupholders it has."

“…But that's the puzzle of what has happened to the automobile world: feeling safe has become more important than actually being safe.”

Let me just add that a lot of times, because of how vehicles are made these days – giving the impression that these machines are invincible, perhaps because of their sheer size, advanced technology, “bling”, etc. etc – people often go around smug, with a false sense of security. They forget that these vehicles still need to be checked regularly and still need to be driven responsibly. Even the most advanced vehicles still need to be taken to the mechanic when necessary (since a vehicle that could take itself to the mechanic or can repair itself hasn’t been invented yet). We folks with regular cars – Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas – rely heavily on properly maintaining our vehicles and from time to time, click over reliable online auto parts stores like Auto Parts Discount for auto parts like mirrors, A/C condensers, headlights or maybe catalytic converters – we know exactly what these cars are for. And that’s to take us from point A to point B, complete limbs and all.

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