Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Off Road Vehicles

After last week's carefully considered and factual review I have decided to continue the motoring theme this week, but with an unashamed rant.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing against so called "off road vehicles" per se. I just think there’s a bit of a clue in the title as to where they belong.

I do understand some people genuinely need an off road vehicle. If you regularly drive across fields, pull a horse box (although I’d far rather you didn’t) or perhaps just live at the bottom of a very wet and muddy lane, there might be a case for owning one. You might then be justified in driving it on the roads occasionally. At least have the good grace, though, to leave a substantial quantity of mud and other unmentionables on the wheel arches as evidence of your credentials.

The ones which get up my nose are the pure status symbols – pristine shiny new ones on the morning school run or in Sainsbury’s car park. The closest these vehicles get to off road is on a front drive - no doubt in one of those front gardens concreted over in the belief that ease of maintenance is worth any adverse impact it may have on the land’s ability to absorb rain.

I would love to understand the rationale behind this vehicle choice. "What do you think dear? The Centurion Tank is maybe a tad expensive but perhaps one of these would provide you almost as much protection when you take the kids to school. Yes I know it uses a fair bit of fuel but think of all the extra Nectar points you’ll earn."

Are these vehicles intended to be the envy of other road users? How sadly misguided. If I wanted one I could get one, but until they decide to plough over the A329 or turn the M4 into a cart track I really don’t see a need. I’ve read a lot of banter about the right to make "life style choices". That’s only an absolute right when doesn’t impact other people. If I made a "lifestyle choice" to hold rock concerts in my back garden I would consider the neighbours’ objections thoroughly justified.

Why do I dislike them so? I don’t want to get into the environmental argument because I don’t know the figures, although I doubt you can get away with carting around that much metal without taking some sort of economy hit. They are ugly and too tall and bulky to see past easily. If they offer extra safety for the occupants it is at the expense of the safety of those on the outside. Most of all, though, I hate them for what they do to me. They inspire prejudice. I find myself looking down on the drivers (figuratively, of course – in practical terms you’ve no choice but to look up at someone perched five feet off the ground). Without ever meeting the driver, I decide they are shallow individuals for whom status is clearly far too important. In a way I feel sorry for them, and I feel bad about myself for making such judgements about someone I've never met.

If you have such a vehicle because you genuinely need one then I apologise. I may even have looked upon you with unjustified distain at some point. All I ask is that if you are considering buying one because you think it will make you look good, don’t. It won’t.

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