SUV driving and adaptive behaviour
EDITOR—Simms and O'Neill point out the problems posed by a particular class of private motor vehicles (sports utility vehicles, SUVs) to one group of other road users.1 The danger posed by SUVs is simply a more extreme version of the problems posed by all motor vehicles to all other road users, not just elderly pedestrians.
The fundamental reason for a higher involvement of SUVs in pedestrian and other road user road traffic accidents is that SUV drivers feel better protected in their vehicle than in smaller motor vehicles. SUVs are frequently advertised as being "safer" than smaller vehicles and give the impression of crashworthiness to potential buyers irrespective of any advertising campaigns.
The common sense knowledge that road users adapt to their perception of danger—generally referred to as "risk compensation"2 or "adaptive behaviour"—is well documented.3 Thus, the danger from SUVs comes at least partly from a tendency by the "road safety" establishment (including the medical establishment) to protect those dangerous to others from the consequences of their actions rather than reducing danger at source by measures such as automatic speed control, black box technology to identify cause in road crashes, higher levels of law enforcement, and deterrent sentencing, etc. Most importantly, a crucial need exists to reduce motor vehicle traffic and the fuel burnt by motor vehicles: in this case increasing the cost of fuel would reduce the attractiveness of SUVs to consumers.
Robert A Davis, policy adviser