United States: Most think SUVs are safe
Poll says majority want fuel standards the same as cars, too
By Will Lester / Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Americans think sport utility vehicles are safer than other vehicles -- for people driving or riding in them. For those who aren't, it's a different story.
There's more agreement on fuel rules. The majority in an Associated Press poll say SUVs should have to meet the same mileage standards as cars.
People were more likely to think SUVs are safer for their own occupants, by 42 percent to 35 percent, according to the poll conducted for the AP by ICR/International Communications Research of Media, Pa. And they were more likely -- by a smaller margin -- to think SUVs are more dangerous for other motorists on the highway, by 45 percent to 41 percent.
The poll findings reflect the public's mixed feelings about SUVs, which industry analysts say still are growing in popularity.
For Mark Milano, an oral surgeon in Muskegon, Mich., buying an SUV makes a lot of sense.
"Most everybody I know, especially in a town, with kids, has an SUV in the family," said Milano. "I think they're safer. SUVs are bigger, higher up off the road."
He acknowledges the bigger SUVs on the road may not make other motorists in smaller cars feel safer.
One of those motorists, retiree Don l'Heureux of Blue Hill, Neb., gets aggravated at the mere mention of SUVs.
"They're dangerous to other cars on the road," he said. "I don't like them at all. They scare me since I drive a small car, they are wasteful on energy."
He said he hears news reports regularly about SUVs rolling over on the highways.
The public's perception of whether SUVs are dangerous for other motorists went up steadily with respondents' education level. Republicans were more likely to defend the general safety of SUVs than Democrats were.
Just over half in the poll, 54 percent, said the fuel economy standards for SUVs should be the same as for other cars, while 33 percent said they should be allowed to get lower gas mileage.
Automakers now must meet a fleet average fuel economy of 20.7 miles per gallon for SUVs, minivans and pickups, a standard that has been in place since 1996 and could be increased slightly to 22.2 mpg for vehicles produced in the next few years.
The mileage requirement for other passenger vehicles is 27.5 mpg. Past efforts in Congress to require SUVs to meet the same fuel standards have been unsuccessful.
The support for higher fuel standards for SUVs comes at a time when the public appears less worried about the chances of a critical energy shortage in the near future.
About four in 10 said they're worried about a critical energy shortage in the next five years; half said they were not. Women were about evenly split on whether there will be a critical energy shortage, while men said by a 2-1 margin they don't expect one.
Just before the war in Iraq, just over half said they were worried about a critical energy shortage in the next five years.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....