EMT Weighs In

I COULDN'T AGREE MORE WITH YOUR article, “Milage, Safety, Affordability: Pick Two” (see WAW — April '08, p.3). I have yet to see an American-designed car even come close to all three.

Meanwhile, I can get great mileage (46-53 mpg [5.1-4.4 L/100 km]) and have been safe in just over half a million miles combined in my last two Volkswagen TDI New Beetles. Neither one has ever let me down.

I think the example concerning Emily Bowness and the accident in her ‘03 Explorer that she walked away from was an anomaly. Trust me, from an EMT’s view, extrication and significant trauma (including neck and spinal injuries) are the norm in just about every Big Three SUV when you throw in a rollover. When an accident is paged as a rollover, we immediately try to determine if it involves an SUV. If so, we modify our response to automatically page a second engine for more extrication equipment (and people). Better to be safe than sorry when time is of the essence.

We have never had an accident with my wife's (Honda) Pilot. But I have helped many people after they have hit or been hit in one. Several rollover crashes with the Pilot would have allowed people to walk away. But the Pilot's roof could still be stronger. Until all SUVs use the Boron steel that Volvo uses in its XC90 SUV's A, B, C, and D pillars, there is room for improvement. Boron steel does add cost, so there you are back to your two out of three.

For now, my wife and I will keep our Pilot and Beetle. Now, if I could only jumpstart this country's desire for alternative fuels and demonstrate how well a diesel can run on filtered, additive-added (2.5 oz/10 gallons) used vegetable oil. We throw out 300 million gallons (1.1 billion L) of it every year.

Although I take exception to the Explorer comment, I think your article raises a valid concern. Auto makers in this country will handle it when their feet are held to the fire, or a decade later than the Europeans.
Mike Roberts
Milton, WI

Getting a Bad Rap

IN THE APRIL ARTICLE RELATED TO rapper 50 Cent (see WAW — April '08, p.10), why was it important to note he was a former drug dealer? How was that relevant? You mentioned he was a rapper. That alone lent “street cred” to the article.

You, like I, probably know of many individuals in the auto industry with a questionable past. Most African Americans would perceive the article to have a slight racial overtone. I would hope you would be sensitive to your word choice in future articles.
Jeff Fortson
Atlanta, GA

Editor's note: We certainly didn't intend to offend. We thought it was worth mentioning 50 Cent's background to demonstrate that some people can survive a difficult life in the inner city, and to show that GM occasionally takes chances in hiring spokespeople for new products.

A Vote For Courtesy

I ENJOYED READING JOHN MCELROY'S article, “Our Little Safety Charade,” in the March issue (see WAW — March '08, p.12). As someone who has driven in other parts of the world, mostly Europe, there is one additional factor to consider as why their traffic accident statistics are lower: culture.

Folks in Europe tend to pay significantly more attention to the task of driving while they're behind the wheel. It's nice that we in the U.S. have cars packaged with additional safety features and have all the additional regulations.

But imagine the improvement in our traffic statistics if U.S. drivers actually start to pay attention while they're driving and be just a little more considerate of others on the road.
Dan Majhan
Sterling Heights, MI

John McElroy's article is true in its point but misses a significant factor in the growing discrepancy between U.S. safety records and those of Japan and Europe. In Europe, specifically, countries such as Germany and Finland place much more emphasis on driver training and have high standards for driving requirements.

Better training would cost more to drivers, but Americans should remember that driving is a privilege, not a right. Higher standards for driver training should be required. This would also probably help congestion, as there would be fewer (but safer) drivers on the road.

The other issue here is responsibility. Cars are the safest they have ever been. We should continue to improve the safety of cars in the event of an accident. But we also need to look at ourselves and our poor skills and training as the root cause of most accidents.
Peter H.
Carlsbad, CA

One Smart Customer

I READ WITH GREAT INTEREST YOUR review of the Smart car (see WAW — Feb. '08, p.43). I was one of the first to receive my Smart Fortwo Passion. I have about 650 miles (1,046 km) on mine. While I understand your comments, your test drive around the block did little to get a true feel for the car. I am still learning the car and look forward to properly commenting once I have exceeded 10,000 miles (16,093 km).

The Smart does not feel small inside. I sit up higher and don't feel small next to 18-wheelers. I felt small in my Corvette, when I could easily pass under the trailer and was always looking underneath. Weight, alone, does not make a car safe. The sooner we Americans learn that, the sooner we are less dependent upon foreign oil.

While the drone of the engine below 2,000 rpm is bad, the manual mode of the transmission allows you to never get there. In fact, the manual mode, with either the steering wheel paddle shifter or the floor shifter, is addictively fun to drive. Coupled with the overly stiff suspension, short wheelbase and tight turning, I feel as if I am driving a street legal go-kart. I can't wait until the engine is through the break-in period, so I can rev and push it.

I did not buy a cheap, small car. I bought a Mercedes-engineered, unique, safe, fun car that is no bigger than it needs to be. The interior is not cramped. I have more headroom and legroom than either my Saab or Corvette. While the storage space is tiny, it is more than I need for my daily commute.

I look forward to future reviews once your staff has had more opportunity to experience all that is Smart.
Craig Callewaert
Appleton, Wisconsin

We want your feedback. Please email comments to Editor Drew Winter at dwinter@wardsauto.com. Include your name, city and state. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.