Readers Write: SUVs not environmentally helpful

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A news article that caught my eye stated that the popularity of SUVs is the second biggest cause of the rise in emissions of late. Aside from the environmental implications that some might find of interest, I have long been perplexed by the rapid rise in popularity of these vehicles.

Back in the 1960s, the Chevrolet Impala, your basic three-box American sedan, outsold the entire production of Chrysler Corporation, and the configuration remained a mainstay for American families for decades to come.

Somewhere along the line, this trend eroded, and SUVs and pick up trucks now account for about 75 percent of all vehicle sales while the rest are “traditional” vehicles. The best selling vehicle in the country is the Ford F-150 pick up. Does America have that many plumbers?

Aside from the environmental impact, I have never understood the attraction. First, I don’t know why everyone decided they needed so much carrying capacity in an everyday vehicle. I find them uncomfortable to drive.

I don’t relish looking at a sea of upholstery and cargo space when I’m backing up, and I don’t have the same kind of spatial awareness of other vehicles with the back window flush with the rear of the car. Threading your way through traffic is a pain.

Their popularity has made backing out of a stall parking space a nail biter. You can’t see over the roofs of them, and the bodywork extends to the point that when you’ve backed up enough to finally see behind them, you’re already committed.

There is a lot of concern about pedestrian safety in this newspaper. Well, jacking up a car by a foot eliminates a large part of the view directly in front of the vehicle, making children invisible.

Not only does the higher beltline obscure objects in front of it, but the sheer mass of these goliaths also makes them more deadly for pedestrians when they get hit compared to a conventional sedan. There is some genuinely ugly data on this. And of course, the view backing up is completely obstructed, which resulted in the mandating of back up cameras.

With each gallon of gas emitting 20 pounds of co2, some public-spirited people may want to reconsider their choices in a vehicle. Just adding 5 MPG in efficiency shrinks your own personal carbon footprint considerably. There is a lot of pressure on the manufacturers to get better mileage out of their engines, but this technology is expensive and time consuming to bring to market.

I would think of substituting higher gasoline taxes for other revenue streams, like sales taxes, for example. I don’t think any reasonable person can deny we have a serious environmental problem on our hands. If we’re serious about putting a dent in our carbon output, we should use taxation as a means to incentivize different behavior.

So when the lease is up, or its trade-in time, perhaps consider more sensible options. More than paper straws or your compost pile, it is by far, the biggest single contribution to the environment an individual can make.

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