The boys swaddled in blue ovals have been remanded by the courts to fork over nearly four mil in restitution to the family of a woman killed in a rollover accident in which she died. The vehicle? Predictably enough, a Ford Explorer. Now, we've never been really big on Fords constructed after 1932, but that's a personal preference. Setting that aside, driving any manner of body-on-frame, pre-ESP SUV or truck assumes a greater matter of personal responsibility, both for oneself and for others (and yes, we realize that all driving falls under a mantle of responsibility). We know. We drive one ourselves. Our long-winded diatribe that will invariably brand us as corporate tools follows after the jump.
And we don't blame the automaker for it, just as we wouldn't blame the them if the thing flipped because we tried to exceed the vehicle's handling limits or we were in a wreck that lent itself to such a physical reaction. Namely, we understand the dynamic limits of our chosen vehicle.
That said, in a sense, we do blame the marketing departments of the various automakers for positioning these vehicles as catch-all, no-compromise alternatives to dorky minivans. We bought a body-on-frame SUV fully embracing the compromise, although frankly we would've rather had a Mini Cooper S and a V8-powered pickup, either of which we could've theoretically afforded on our own, but neither of which adequately met our needs on its own. (And to be frank, we were leaning toward the Mini out of lust, but the dealer markup killed it for us, hence theoretically).
The fact is, an SUV would work well for a number of people who poo-pooh them, just as quite a few people who drive SUVs would be better served by the minivans they so despise. But they also work less well for people who don't understand what they are and bought them simply because they thought a big hunk of iron would keep their families safe. And unfortunately, we feel that market seems to be the largest; at least when leadfoot us is tooling along not too far above the speed limit because it feels like a safe speed (and we've felt safe at speeds quite feloniously over 100mph in other cars) when we have somebody blast past us in an identical vehicle. Far from us to be corporate defenders, but when you plunk down a chunk of change that size on something, be aware of its pluses and minuses, as well as the ways in which you can mitigate the minuses.
But if there's a bright side to these Ford suits, they were the cultural turning point in the movement back to more demographically-correct vehicles; back to vehicles that people actually needed; that were just as generally useful, and by and large, safer than hulking high-center-of-gravity brutes. Still, driving is a risk, as Jamie Kitman points out in his latest Automobile column. We lose 45,000 Americans on the road each year essentially as a cost of doing business. And the bargain we often strike in life is between personal expression, personal safety, and what we're willing to spend to split the difference and we're not just talking money, here.
Ford must pay $4 million in rollover suit [Detroit News]