"You have to judge people by their history," said Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., at a recent congressional hearing that questioned automaker pledges to address voluntarily the size and design differences between cars and SUVs.
But McCain's own standard should compel him to demand equal accountability from anti-SUV special-interest groups that have a track record of mendacity and mischief-making.
The misinformation machine was on full display at the hearing, with Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen alarmingly testifying that SUVs "are profoundly anti-social pollution-belching highway battering rams."
During her tenure as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Claybrook claimed a wholly different sky was falling, saying: "With the introduction of larger numbers of small cars on the American highways, we can anticipate an increase of 10,000 to 15,000 lives lost per year by 1990."
In congressional testimony, she stated: "The principal contributors to these increases are the increasing numbers of subcompact cars in crashes." So much for consistency, Joan.
Claybrook's "anti-social" gibe is at striking odds with the fact that thousands of SUV owners selflessly volunteered to transport doctors, nurses and patients during several recent snowstorms that paralyzed much of the Northeast.
SUVs are among the safest vehicles on the highway and do not pose undue risks to other drivers. The latest available report on multivehicle crashes shows that SUV-car collisions account for just 4 percent of highway fatalities.
Rollovers get headlines, but fewer than 3 percent of all crashes are rollovers. More important, NHTSA estimates that 75 percent of rollover fatalities would have been prevented had the occupants been wearing safety belts. The bad rap on SUVs and their owners is way out of line with reality.