Monday, June 8, 2009

Learned Helplessness and the Age of the SUV

I just came upon an essay Malcolm Gladwell wrote for The New Yorker back in 2004 entitled "Big and Bad: How the S.U.V. Ran Over Automotive Safety". It is a fascinating look at the claim that SUVs are safer than cars Below are a few excerpts. I highly recommend reading the whole essay.

In the parlance of the automobile world, the TrailBlazer is better at "passive safety. " The Boxster is better when it comes to "active safety," which is every bit as important.

The S.U.V. boom represents, then, a shift in how we conceive of safety—from active to passive. It's what happens when a larger number of drivers conclude, consciously or otherwise, that the extra thirty feet that the TrailBlazer takes to come to a stop don't really matter, that the tractor-trailer will hit them anyway, and that they are better off treating accidents as inevitable rather than avoidable.

S.U.V.s are unsafe because they make their drivers feel safe. That feeling of safety isn't the solution; it's the problem.

Read the whole thing.

Books by Malcolm Gladwell:

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

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