Day By Day

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

When SUVs Attack -- kids and cars

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

"Errant SUV crashes into house"

That's the headline. Note no human agency involved. The implication is that it was that rogue SUV that attacked the house.

Now the details:
POINCIANA -- Joseph Gillett, 4, was watching TV on his family's sofa Monday night when a sport utility vehicle driven by an 11-year-old neighbor catapulted into Joseph's living room and bashed into the couch, throwing him across the room and into the kitchen, authorities and his family said.

Although the living room was littered with car parts, broken glass, bent miniblinds and other debris, Joseph emerged unscathed, his mother, Gina Gillett, said Tuesday.

"Yes, I'm OK," Joseph said as he played in the front yard.
That's good. Nobody was really hurt. The mother sustained a small cut on her foot from broken glass, although from the dialogue quoted in the story she sounds as if she has some cognitive problems too.
I hear like a big bang," said [the mother], 26, who cut her foot on broken glass and was the only person injured as a result of the crash. "I'm like, oh my goodness. I thought, is the world exploding?"
This speech problem can probably be attributed to her educational experience and the influence of mass media and was probably not caused by the rogue SUV.

And, it appears that a human being actually was involved in this ruthless assault, although there is some confusion as to exactly which human being. There were at least two kids in the car.
There was initial confusion about who was in the SUV, which the driver's
mother described as a Mazda Tribute....

The 11-year-old and her 14-year-old brother told rescue workers that their
2-year-old brother turned the ignition and switched the SUV into gear....
That's right..., blame it on the two year old. No question, though, about the identity of the SUV.
However, the Florida Highway Patrol, the investigating agency, said the 11-year-old was driving and the 2-year-old also was in the SUV. The 14-year-old tried to stop the vehicle and was knocked down but unhurt, the FHP said.
So, finally, we have a culprit. The eleven year old seems to have been the one. But there is a final comment.
The mother said the girl was trying to roll up the electric windows when the vehicle started.
So we're back to the SUV starting by itself while an innocent human was merely trying to operate the power windows and a heroic human tried to stop the out of control SUV as it moved along its pathway of destruction.

Now this is a small story -- a human interest piece in an obscure paper -- but it is typical of the way in which SUVs are portrayed in the press. The effect of such stories is to reinforce the image some activists are trying to spread of SUVs as dangerous, even malevolent, things that should be banned.

When's the last time you saw a paper or broadcast news item that identified a four door sedan, or a two-door coup, or a mini-hatchback or some other configuration of automotive design as being the agent of destruction or injury? No, that role is reserved for SUVs. This is subtle, it is effective, and it is demonization.


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