A number of state attorneys general launched a $27 million campaign last week to combat the high rate of crashes caused by rolling-over or malfunctioning sport utility vehicles. The campaign has created TV commercials and posters urging its targeted audience — SUV-driving males between the ages 18-34 — to heed rollover tendencies of SUVs, drive the speed limit, not fill the vehicle over capacity and check tire pressure regularly. While seemingly wise, these words of advice — which all drivers should follow — ignore the fact that SUVs are inherently unsafe.
The campaign centers around a TV ad featuring a man (symbolizing the target audience) riding an imaginary animal — cheesily called an “Esuvee” — that symbolizes SUVs. The man riding the cartoon-like beast illustrates the campaign’s slogan, “Anybody can ride an Esuvee, but not everybody rides it right.” With this pun, the ad creators claim to have found a way to get the message of responsible driving across to young males failing to acknowledge the dangerous implications of irresponsible driving while in an SUV. Unfortunately, this ad is a laughable attempt at fixing a serious public safety issue; the comical and childish “Esuvee” will not cause men to change their driving habits.
SUVs, by their design, are especially prone to rolling over, and ads merely stressing safe driving will not fix that. SUV manufacturers need to take responsibility to educate consumers about the specific dangers encountered when driving their dangerous products.