The current issue of the British Medical Journal editorialized that SUVs (sports utility vehicles) should carry a health warning to inform potential buyers of the increased risk the vehicles pose to pedestrians.
In the Philippines, in spite of the rising oil prices, SUVs are the preferred vehicles of the affluent and the can-afford.
In the politics-mad Philippines, SUVs are not just symbols of affluence, but blunt instruments of power as they navigate the congested and potholed streets of the capital, which suffers from seasonal flooding.
Among politicians and businessmen, one of the most popular models is the Ford Expedition, usually sporting darkly tinted windows.
The ultimate power trip is to be in a VIP convoy of SUVs heading against normal traffic flow --- no Filipino traffic cop earning less money a week than the cost of a tank of gasoline would dare stop them. [Manila Times, July 04 2005]
See? SUVs are symbols of power here, and in a power-deficient country, I think owning an SUV offers the owners some form of release.
The BMJ offered a dissenting opinion. It has something to do with how an SUV is designed:
"The increased mortality and morbidity from SUVs arises primarily from the geometry of the front end structure.
"In a typical collision between a car and an adult, the bumper strikes the lower legs and the leading edge of the bonnet strikes the femur/pelvis, causing the pedestrian to rotate towards the bonnet. This results in the bonnet or windscreen hitting the shoulders or head.
"After this further injuries often occur through impact with the ground. A key mitigating factor in injury severity is the relatively peripheral nature of the primary impact of the bumper to the lower legs.
"Thus the evidence shows that SUVs represent a significantly greater hazard to pedestrians than ordinary cars --- and those pedestrians are getting older and more vulnerable. Addressing this threat requires an integrated approach from public health and transportation and road safety agencies (including vehicle designers). [British Medical Journal, Oct 08 2005]
But since when did power-tripping care about the welfare of others? Oh, no. I think this is a long-shot. Even if the SUV-manufacturers put out health hazard announcements with their SUVs, the affluent will still go on and buy them.