While I’ve been appreciating (I won’t quite say “enjoying”) the falling gas prices, I have to say that a few consequences of the return to almost-reasonable prices have me less than pleased.
For example, the resurging popularity of SUVs.
I understand that there are some people who need SUVs. I grew up in northern New Hampshire, and there are people who need the size, the cargo capacity, and the flexibility of an SUV.
But for every driver who needs an SUV, there are a dozen or so who just WANT one.
All decisions in life are tradeoffs. Hell, the root word for “decision” derives from the Latin term for “kill,” because when you decide something, you kill the alternatives. And the pluses of SUVs come with serious minuses.
1) They are a LOT heavier, which means that they get worse mileage, worse handling, and inflict more wear and tear “where the rubber meets the road” — on both tires and roads.
2) They tend to be more top-heavy, meaning that they are inherently less stable in emergencies and more prone to roll than a passenger car.
3) They are bigger, meaning that they take up more space to park (do NOT try to fit between two big SUVs in a parking lot, unless you like dings).
4) They are taller, which makes them harder to see around, over, or through when driving near them.
I’ve never really looked into it, but I’d be willing to wager that one could yank 3 out of 4 SUV drivers out of their behemoths, strap them into a sedan, station wagon, or minivan and actually improve their overall lot in life (at the expense of crushing damage to their egos). They’d be safer, richer, and generally have a more convenient life.
But that won’t happen, largely because we live in a free market system. People buy big, useless SUVs because they want them, and they can. Auto makers make them because they can sell them — and at a very nice (almost obscene) profit.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of our most essential freedoms has to be to make our own choices, even stupid ones. The right to be wrong is one of the most undervalued rights — to “protect” us from poor choices is to infringe on our essential freedoms, and should only be done under the most dire of circumstances.
In the meantime, though, whenever I see someone tooling around alone — or with a single passenger — in a Toyota Land Crusher or GMC Behemoth or a Ford Excess, I find myself both amused and disgusted.
(Proud former owner of two Taurus wagons)