Are Small Cars a Threat to SUV Drivers?
I'm writing this piece because of what happened to me this
morning on my way to work. It scared me
and I know it might make you a little concerned too.
Let me start by saying that something has been bothering me
on the freeway lately. Actually, it's been
bothering me on the city streets, too. And
in the parking lot. These things seem to
be multiplying like rats, appearing everywhere, getting in the way,
making driving difficult. I'm talking
specifically about that modern urban blight professional mothers like
myself have to deal with every single day -- small cars taking up the
It was clear and sunny this morning, and I was in 8am rush
hour traffic on the freeway, start-stop-start as usual, with my typical
morning commute setup - a Venti latte in my left hand, a cell phone in
my right hand, and my palm pilot in my lap. As
I neared my exit, I was just getting through my second latte, I had my
boss on the phone and my son waiting on hold, and I was trying to jot
some things down into my Outlook calendar with the stylus I was holding
in my teeth. Then suddenly, out of
nowhere, I look up and there's this tiny Ford Focus in front of me, or
should I say, going underneath me as my front tires rolled right up
onto its trunk and onto its tiny roof. I
drive an average-sized Hummer H2 "Road
Bully", it weighs four tons, and this miniature Focus couldn't have
been more than one tenth my vehicle's weight and size.
I could barely even feel it until I was right on top of it. Luckily I managed to stop before I rolled
right over the driver himself. Long story
short - I almost didn't make my 9:30 department coordinator meeting,
but luckily I was able to back up off the Focus. I
made it out of there before the police came thanks to four wheel drive
and off-road tires. You can go right
through a swampy ditch in an H2 and it feels like you're driving on
brand new pavement, I swear.
After my little scare with the blue Focus, I started to look
around more, and I noticed that there were a lot of small cars on the
road...a lot! If you just tilt your
side mirrors ten degrees down you'll be surprised what you see driving
next to you. There's all these little
silver Accents and red Miatas, tiny little Echos zipping this way and
that. I started to wonder if maybe the
Focus I ran over this morning wasn't my first - just possibly the first
I ever looked up in time to notice? The
suspension on an H2 is excellent, you can drive over a foot-tall curb
and not even feel it, so it's likely my Focus incident wasn't my only
accident that morning.
I pulled into the parking lot outside my office building, and
there were small cars there too. I was
always aware that there were a few small cars in the parking lot, but I
just assumed building management placed them there to help people step
down out of their SUVs. But now that I was
paying more attention, I noticed they were driving around the parking
lot too, and people were getting in and out of them.
There was no damage to my vehicle, thank God. My husband and I had to take out two separate loans and pull our son out of private school just to buy it. Between monthly payments and the ridiculous gasoline prices lately—it costs me close to eighty dollars every three days just to fill up my tank!—there isn't much in the family budget left for higher insurance premiums or body work.
Later that morning during my break, I pulled into the
Starbucks lot, and I noticed more of the same. Small
cars, everywhere. I watched a family of
four squeeze out of a little Corolla, which I just couldn't believe
because I thought those only seated one.
I don't know what mothers are thinking towing their children
around in those flimsy, matchbox-sized tin boxes. Not
only does the diminutive size of these vehicles make them difficult to
see on the street, but they are also virtual death traps.
Imagine if you hit one head-on in your H2, your Excursion,
your Nissan Xterra, or your Chevy Avalanche; you would pulverize
someone! How can a mother in good
conscience tow her precious children around in one of these tiny things? I'm one hundred percent comfortable hauling my
first-grade boy and all his little boyfriends to and from their
activities, because all modern SUVs have front, side and back airbag
curtains, and in an H2 we're high above traffic. Nobody has to bother
even putting on their seatbelts. But these
little cars could be squashed by my truck and I might not even feel it
given how low they ride and how light their bodies are.
I'm actually scared to look at my undercarriage.
I wrote a letter to my congressmen asking that they look into
the issue and possibly propose legislation that would set a minimum
size a passenger vehicle must be to be allowed on the road. I think a reasonable minimum size would be
like a Jeep Cherokee. I will let you know
what I hear back.
As a full-time management consultant for a large insurance
firm and a part-time mother, naturally safety is a major concern of
mine. I urge every mother reading this to
look at the size of her own car, and ask herself if she really feels
safe towing precious cargo like her children and groceries around in
it, or if maybe she should trade it in for something a little bigger. Let
me know what you think.
Maureen Jambor is an executive management consultant, a business systems analyst, a published author, and a part-time mom.
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