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Truck Safety: Rollover, Fuel Economy, Child Seats - Low Rage

Posted in Project Vehicles on July 1, 2002
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Give Us Our Trucks Back!
Trucks are in the news these days, and not in a good way. For instance, I saw that the government is trying to figure out a better way to measure whether a vehicle is prone to rolling over.

What the regulators do now is use a formula that measures a vehicle's center of gravity against its track width to see how top heavy it is. That top-heaviness, or lack of it, is its "rollover resistance rating."

Only problem is, most rollover accidents aren't caused just by top-heaviness. It usually takes something else to get the truck to start going over, like hitting a curb or a ditch, or blowing a tire. So using top-heaviness as the only rule of thumb is just a little too simple for my tastes. Now, to their credit, the government is thinking about doing actual tests, not just using their calculators, to measure how easily a car or truck flips. I just hope they don't take any lessons from those numb-nuts at Consumer Reports.

Then there's all the brouhaha about Congress voting against tougher fuel economy rules for trucks. While I thought this was pretty good news, the TV media made truck owners like us out to be unpatriotic jerks for keeping our country dependent on foreign oil. Believe me, I'd like nothing better than to tell OPEC where it can stuff its oil barrels. But I'm not wild about drilling in Alaskan wildlife refuges, either. So until we find other sources, we'll have to deal with those OPEC thieves.

The last thing that bugged me was a report in the other day's paper from a group of Philadelphia doctors. They were warning parents not to let their kids ride in a pickup's extended-cab jump seats, as they're more liable to be injured if the truck crashes.

Hey, I'm all for kids' safety. But I'm from a generation that did a whole lot of riding around in the beds of pickups. That probably horrifies this new generation of over-protective parents, but we did stuff like that back then. And we lived. In fact, the only kid I ever knew who fell out of a moving vehicle fell out of a Buick.

OK, so where am I going with all this rambling? None of this bad news was going on 20, or even 10 years ago. Why not? 'Cause the soccer moms, urban cowboys, yuppies, and other folks who really have no business being in a truck hadn't discovered them yet. Now they're ruining it for the rest of us.

You didn't hear much about trucks rolling over years ago because not every housewife in the suburbs was driving one. The government didn't worry about pickup fuel economy 20 or so years ago because there weren't that many of them on the road. Most of those that were around weren't on roads at all, but were working on farms or toting construction crews. And safety? Working men took care of themselves, and we kids knew enough to hang on when riding in the bed down a rutted road.

Yeah, I know you can't live in the past. But we can do something to try and get our trucks back. If you're like me, you're probably the neighborhood car guy, right? You're the one folks talk to when their lease is up and they're ready to slide into another vehicle. Well from now on, rather then telling the next-door neighbors about a great SUV or truck, I'll talk up station wagons and minivans. I'll convince them that they really don't want some unsafe gas hog, that they'd be so much better off in a Volvo wagon or a Town & Country. If enough of us move all the soccer moms out of our rigs and into cars, maybe the feds will leave us alone. And we'll have our trucks back.

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