Sunday, October 12, 2008

BIG time=changing standards?

It’s time for a brief rant from Mel. (And believe it or not, this is brief for me.)

Vehicles have become silly large. Have you noticed?

Rumor has it that car size was originally based on the width of a wagon. Since cars needed to utilize the same routes that wagons did, the first cars looked a lot like a motorized wagon. People likely had less to carry in vehicles back then, because most people had not yet become obsessed consumers and collectors of crap—most of them had not the means, nor very much crap available to purchase and hoard. There was no need to haul your world around with you, because you stayed at home most of the time, unless you were wealthy, in which case you had several homes and a fleet of poor people to move your stuff for you.

But I’m getting off track—that’s not the focus for today. I’d like to focus on the sheer size, the monstrosity, the ludicrously gargantuan aspect of many of today’s motor vehicles.

The humongous nature of many American vehicles would be problematic enough, what with minute parking places and skinny lanes and low bridges and the sort. But what makes them even more dangerous is the fact that often, they are driven by diminutive ladies who cannot see out of them properly. And who may or may not be trying to talk on the phone and sip a macchiato while they steer that boat.

I don’t mean to sound sexist; why would I do that? I AM a woman, for cryin’ out loud. But I am short, and I know I am short, and I choose to drive a small car that rides quite low to the ground. How many times have I seen a female head peering out from behind a steering wheel of a behemoth? On how many occasions have I witnessed these cuties struggling to park their big killing machines? How often have I been narrowly missed by a big ol’ bumper because the pretty little driver couldn’t see over the vehicle’s frame to spot me?

I know, I know—kids’ car seat regulations demand bigger vehicles than we used to have. I also realize that bigger cars are safer, and higher, and less prone to being destroyed on impact like my tiny car. And honestly, some people are perfectly capable of driving these homes on wheels, and doing it well. But many such drivers are not equipped to handle these giants on the road. This fact, and the danger it brings, can only be exacerbated by the reality that driving alongside the monsters are tiny counterparts like Minis and Smart Cars and the like. How can these bitty rides share the road with SUVs—piloted by distracted and caffeinated midgets, mind you—that are modeled after an off-road wartime transport machine instead of a horse-drawn box?

So what’s the answer? And it’s not a simple answer, because This Is America, and we like stuff B I G and we don’t care it if sucks up gasoline and that’s our right as piggish consumers, by golly! Okay, okay. Un-bundle your undies and take a breath; yes, I get frustrated with huge gas-guzzlers and their defenders in general—but that’s a rant for another post. Here’s a thought: How about re-testing drivers periodically? How about forcing drivers to re-test in the car they’ll actually be driving? And how about outlawing cell phones while operating a vehicle? Maybe we could re-test drivers more frequently if they insist on driving vehicles that top 2 tons. Or, even better, try this: How about coming up with another class of license? In addition to the CDL, we could have the HSUL (Hulking Sport Utility License) and perhaps even the BPUL (Behemoth Pick-Up License). If that sounds ridiculous, then consider how many people are proponents of testing elderly drivers more often; are you not at least equally threatened by smaller and/or less capable drivers who can’t see well enough from large vehicles to be fully informed behind the wheel?

I know it’s everyone’s choice to choose the vehicle they drive. But too many choices have both improved vehicle safety and performance, and also have forced us into this insane world where a Vespa scooter and a Hummer and a semi with full trailer load can all share the same highways. To top that off, prosperity in our society has given us money to burn on gasoline and frothy drinks and technology. And the crazy thing is that no one thinks that’s crazy.

And hey—feel free to remind me of my spewing here if I ever turn up driving something just slightly smaller than an RV.


Facie said...

I remember the day clearly. Bri and I lived in Chalfant, and for whatever reason, I took his large truck to run errands. As I was driving down the road, I thought, no more sedans for me. I want to be able to see over everyone.

I did end up getting an Exploder, but said good bye to it almost two years ago. Now I drive a much smaller SUV, which is basically a station wagon. I considered going back to sedan, but having a dog makes that almost impossible (no place to put the crate, though the thought of putting Sadie in a trunck is sometimes appealing).

Some people definitely drive cars bigger than what they need, and that makes it hard for those of us lower to the ground to see; but others, like large athletes, pretty much need big honking cars. And if you have 2 kids, 3 for sure, you pretty much have to get a mini-van or an SUV. You need the room for your kids and to carpool.

Mel said...

hmmm. didn't think about the dog factor. true. and yeah, I did admit that the whole car seat thing demands bigger vehicles--I don't think a passel of kids, lounging, unhitched, in the back of the station wagon would pass muster anymore.

well, like I said--some people can drive the biggies without any trouble. they aren't the issue... : )