Poll: SUVs Believed Safer

July 15, 2003 - Posted at: 8:20 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark.-- Whether at the pump or out on the open road, SUVs are among the most popular vehicles around.

"The popularity of the SUV in the last ten years has been phenomenal, it has replaced the van sales in a lot of aspects, it's big, roomy, and spacious," said Jonesboro Central Toyota salesman Steve Meridith.

A new Associated Press Poll shows the public wants SUVs to be safer and more fuel efficient. According to last month's poll, 42 percent in a poll of more than 1,000 people said SUVs are safer than other types of cars. On the contrary, the poll indicated that 35 percent say the vehicles are more dangerous.

"When involved in a collision, you can create more damage to a person in a smaller car or SUV, there's not much you can do about that," said Meridith. "In retrospect, it does protect the person in that SUV"

Currently, SUVs are becoming even safer thanks to a wider wheel base, which helps prevent roll-overs, and side impact air bags.

In the same AP survey, more than half of those polled said federal regulations should be changed, requiring SUVs to meet the same fuel standards as regular cars.

"I get twenty miles per gallon consistently with it, on a trip I may get twenty-five to twenty-six miles per gallon," said Chevy Blazer owner Jerry Branum. "I'm very satisfied with it and I don't understand why everybody doesn't have one."

Meridith says, now automobile companies are looking into ways to make SUVs more fuel efficient.

"Their using a lot lighter weight alloys in a lot of their main components without causing any structural deficiencies," said Meridith. "Their also a little more sleek, stylish, and that cuts down the co-efficiency of drag, and that has lowered the fuel economy in most of the larger SUVs."

In the years to come, Hybrid engines are also on the way for SUVs, allowing for 50 to 60 miles per gallon in the city and on the highway.