The High Horse

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Every year seems to bring an increase in the number of 4WD, SUV, and other large vehicles to our roads. As residents of Western Australia I wonder if we have embraced these vehicles out of fashion or folly. I’m pretty well convinced that it has not been out of necessity.

I hasten to add that I recognise the facility of this sort of vehicle for explorers and farmers. There is a need for them on mine sites and with the military. And a small number of enthusiasts actually use them to go to places off the beaten track, thereby beating the track into fragments… Would that they could do it in road graders and help the rest of us.

But I fail to see the utility of the type in the city. I can agree with a ute or pickup for tradesmen – and of course there is always the tray-top to transport the tradie in and out of morning traffic at high speed….but the 4WD land tank suburban Transformers truck going into car parks and down to the school to collect the kids seems overkill. And it kills a lot of the joy of the road for everyone else.

Of course the finger might not be pointing in the right direction when it goes toward the users – they may be trapped by the manufacturers who just keep coming out with bigger and more improbably vehicles to beat their rivals. The suburban mum who might have been perfectly capable and happy with a hatch or sedan a decade ago is now saddled with something that looks like it comes out of the Russian army. But she dare not go against the grain of the Mother’s Group pecking order – when large SUV’s are a sign of status she must needs get an Altair or Scammel.

Of course then it becomes a self-fulfilling thing. The big car puts her high up and as she is high up she is impervious – impervious quickly morphs to imperious, and then she needs a bigger car with bigger bumpers. Her ego expands to fit the sheet metal volume. Eventually it outruns her mechanical ability to see, steer, or form adequate judgement. Then she is eligible for the gold rings and  chains, sunglasses in the hairdo, and barking scream.

Catherine The Great would  have loved the modern SUV. Better even than guardsmen or horses.

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