SUVs are marketed to consumers as a safe and rugged alternative to the station wagon. The reality, however, is that automakers have offered consumers unsafe SUVs that place a heavy burden on both pocketbooks and the environment.
In 2002, 42,815 people lost their lives in U.S. highway fatalities—the highest level since 1990. SUVs and pickups accounted for more than 60 percent of the increase last year. At the same time, the fuel economy of light trucks (SUVs, pickups, and minivans) fell to its lowest level since 1981, forcing the average light truck owner to pay more than $11,000 for gasoline over the life of the vehicle. This poor fuel economy contributes to a growing dependence on oil, rising imports, and a transportation sector that emits more global warming emissions than most countries release from all sectors combined.
Consumers want and deserve better. A September 2003 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Building a Better SUV: A Blueprint for Saving Lives, Money, and Gasoline, shows how existing technologies can be used to offer consumers an SUV that is safer, cleaner, and more cost-effective, while retaining the size and performance SUV drivers have today.