Posted on Friday, February 28 / 2003

News2Me Special Investigative Report: SUVs: Safe Or Suicide?

ATLANTA - Sport Utility Vehicles, are they safe or are they suicide? That is the question our staff kept asking as SUV's safety was being battled out in Washington and its links to terrorism under scrutiny by many.

Photo thanks to ReutersWe decided to put the high riding sporty vehicles through our own independent tests to get down to the truth. First off, we chose three of the top selling vehicles; a Ford Explorer, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, and a Honda Passport based on sales and the cool factor. We sent blonde seventeen year old Sarah, our intern, to each local dealership undercover as a buyer to 'test drive' the automobile in question. It should be noted that at all three dealers, the sales people insisted on riding with Sarah so she reluctantly agreed but once to our undercover testing area in the local closed down K-Mart parking lot the salesmen agreed to help in our tests after being tied and gagged.

The tests would involve two areas. The first would be a braking test to judge the vehicles stopping length from sixty miles per hour to a full stop. The second test would be the dodge test, whereas the vehicle will have to make a sharp veering turn to avoid a object, such as a car backing out or child running into the street in the real life situation. Sarah would do the driving in all of these tests.

TEST 1 - For this test we painted a 100 foot line and placed a chair at the end of that line. The first runner up was the Honda Passport so we placed the tied and gagged Honda sales person in the chair and lined up the Passport across the parking lot and started the study.

The Honda reached 60 mph and Sarah slammed on the brakes as she passed the line as instructed. The Honda passed as 'decent' as it stopped just short of the salesman. A yellowish liquid was found afterward on the pavement but we determined it wasn't from the automobile.

The Ford Explorer was second in the test and passed only as 'satisfactory' because it locked up the rear tires during extreme braking, causing the left rear to explode. The stopping distance was a little longer because of this, knocking the wind out of the Ford salesman.

The Chevy TrailBlazer did not pass as it received a grade of poor. During the test Sarah got confused and accidentally floored the gas pedal. The Blazer passed the 100 foot line at around 87 mph, killing the Chevrolet salesperson on impact. Upon inspection we concluded the pedals should have been labeled better as in the Honda with a large 'BRAKE' inscribed on the braking pedal for Sarah.

TEST 2 - This test will have Sarah once again behind the wheel as she approaches our test area at 95 mph as I push the sales person out into her path to test the maneuverability.

We started with the TrailBlazer this test as the corpse was having severe blood loss and starting to attract insects. As she approached the zone, I found that I couldn't pick up the salesman by myself so I just rolled the cadaver with my feet into Sarah's way. She obviously didn't see what I was doing as she didn't swerve at all and just ran over the obstacle. We rate the Chevy TrailBlazer as poor for bad visibility for a 4 foot 8 Sarah.

Second was the Honda Passport. Sarah seemed to momentarily forget the test procedures as she was busy tuning the radio and waited until she hit the obstacle to swerve. The Passport did a 360 degree spin out and hit a light pole before coming to a stop. We gave it a 'poor' in the test but 'excellent' in its ability to clean a rather bloody windshield in just three passes with the wipers.

Finally was the Ford Explorer in our dodge test with the spare emergency donut tire attached. During her pass across the parking lot, Sarah received a urgent phone call from her boyfriend concerning him breaking up for another woman. She did swerve, but because of the momentum the Explorer lifted up onto it's side and rolled over the salesperson before bursting into flames. If poor Sarah wasn't wearing her seatbelt, she may have survived. Considering the fire and two deaths involved, I had to rate it 'unsatisfactory'.

In conclusion, I would have to say that Sport Utility Vehicles are 'safe' are not dangerous but instead the many women behind the wheel are.

Investigative Reporter Ryan Phillips reporting for News2me



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