When a SUV is just another car

I walked out of the house today to join the daily commute into the office the same way I do every day. And am confronted by a fine sleet coming down that had everything covered in about a 16th of an inch of roughly textured ice. Oh joy! I glanced over at the thermometer on the porch and it showed a chilly 20 degrees F and I knew that it wouldn’t go above freezing until afternoon.

After firing up my 2000 model Ford F150 I got down to scraping the ice off my windows and mirrors and it got me to thinking about an observation that I’d shared with my brother from driving in a few big snows.

What I’ve noticed is that I seem to be seeing a disproportionate amount of 4 wheel drives and SUV’s stuck on the side of the road or involved in accidents during inclement weather. So on the way into work this morning I watched and over a 12 mile drive (all interstate) I see a total of 6 accidents. In 4 of these accidents there sits the SUV all bashed up on the side of the highway with the cops all around it and the driver sitting in it looking as thought they wished they were somewhere else.

As a former mechanic of 10 years I thought to myself.. These people driving these SUV’s have no idea that although it accelerates better in snow and ice, it stops no differently than a car. Fact is it’s harder to stop because it weighs more. All things being equal, more mass in motion takes more energy and distance to decelerate.. The laws of physics don’t give any body a brake, regardless of how high they ride or how tall their tires are. When braking; an SUV is very inferior to a much lighter car.

When I got to the Louisville Pawn Shops that I work at, I took the liberty of googleing around and found a most interesting article about SUV myths versus facts. I have a snippet here about their ability to stop on slippery surfaces, and a link to the entire article for anybody interested in choosing between a car or SUV for their next vehicle purchase.


Myth: Vehicles with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive have more effective brakes than two-wheel-drive vehicles.

Reality: All-wheel drive or four-wheel drive simply means that the engine is supplying power to turn all four wheels. These systems help a vehicle accelerate. But this has nothing to do with braking effectiveness. Indeed, all vehicles have brakes on all four wheels. Taller, heavier vehicles, including most SUVs, are harder to stop than shorter, lighter vehicles, including most cars. Because SUVs are less likely to slip while accelerating on wet or icy surfaces, their drivers are easily lulled into forgetting that they cannot stop any better than nearby cars. The most important factor in braking and steering is the surface area of contact that the tires have against the road. Many SUV tires actually have less contact with paved roads than car tires because they have deep, macho-looking grooves that are designed to let them sink deep into mud or snow to harder
ground below.

Link to the entire article on SUV myths

If you own a SUV do be extra careful when braking on snow, ice, or a wet surface. We don’t want anybody being late to work or getting hurt.



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