SUV owners are mad!

Mad at Keith Bradsher's controversial new book, High and Mighty: SUV's - the World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way.

Bradsher is a well respected, Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter, known for his investigation of the Ford-Firestone rollover scandal. In this survey of how SUVs got to be so large and so profitable, Bradsher takes the most important look at motor vehicle safety since Ralph Nader's 1965 landmark Unsafe At Any Speed. Many of us owe Mr. Nader our lives, and today even Detroit's Big Three agree that Nader spoke the truth 37 years ago. Unsafe At Any Speed was attacked as viciously as Bradsher's book is now -- keep that in mind when you read the negative reviews of Bradsher's book.

This book should be required reading for anyone thinking about purchasing an SUV. SUVs, originally Army vehicles that evolved into the favorite of executives and soccer moms, appear to offer protection from other vehicles and people, and perhaps an escape from urban life. Appearances are misleading. Fewer than 5% of SUV owners will ever use their off-road capabilities, and SUV drivers are far less safe than motorists driving regular cars. Bradsher points out that SUVs contribute to more than 3000 needless highway deaths annually - a toll greater than that of Sept 11th's World Trade Center disaster. The public needs to know that rollover death rates for sport-utes are double those of regular passenger cars and that SUVs kill non-passengers as well, causing an additional 2,000 deaths a year in vehicles they strike. Less well known is the tendency of SUVs such as the Ford Explorer to flip over after striking a guardrail or having a tire fail - problems that don't affect cars. Sport-utilities pollute more, are harder to control, utilize under-sized brakes and consume more fuel than cars, all because of increased weight. SUV buyers need to think twice before purchasing these tanks on wheels. Bradsher concludes, "SUVs represent the biggest menace to public safety and the environment that the auto industry has produced since the bad old days of the 1960s."

Not surprisingly, Detroit doesn't want prospective SUV buyers to read this book. Fearful of biting the hand that feeds them (SUVs account for the majority of the Big Three's profits), automotive journalists have publicly dismissed the book as nothing more than one man's jihad against SUVs. In case you're unaware, auto manufacturers give automotive journalists free use of a new car 24/7 in addition to frequent press junkets to Europe and elsewhere to test-drive or observe their latest models. No wonder they started attacking the book weeks before it came out.

Most Americans trust the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to keep unsafe cars and trucks off America's roadways. I don't. NHTSA has to enforce regulations created by Congress, under heavy influence from auto industry lobbyists. Bradsher describes the intricate relationship between automakers, the auto unions, Congress, and NHTSA, in disquieting detail. High and Mighty provides insight into the way Detroit and the Federal Government cooperate behind closed doors.

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