Why Americans Love Their Cars
Why Americans Love Their Cars
Americans and their cars. Nowadays, there are more cars in a household than people to drive them, so says the Transportation Department (USA Today, 2003). The report says that there is an average of 1.9 cars, trucks, or sport utility vehicle in every household as opposed to 1.8 drivers per household. Although there has been a decline of number in the of people per household, there has been an increase in breadwinners per household, that is why there has been an increased number of cars. Plus, people do not want to use the vehicles they use for work, when they go to trips during weekends.
Americans’ love for cars can be connected with their love to drive. Even if it means paying high priced gas for a drive. And even if it means going through traffic jams every time they go to work. As can be observed, Americans would rather drive than to take public transportation or taxi. But reasons for this can sometimes be reasonable. First, the bus may not be passing the destination that the person is going, or the bus passes the destination, but the travel would be longer if he takes the bus. Second, the bus stop may be far from his destination. Although there would be other solutions to this like walking, if it is not that far from a destination, people would just rather drive than do the other options, which would be cheaper.
Americans’ love for cars is theirs’ alone. The countries where American ancestry can be traced do not reflect it. Europeans may have cars but they do not usually take it to out of town travels. Although some Americans also do this, most others still do the driving.
As American love cars and driving, most likely they hate traffic. Everywhere in the world, commuters do not like the hazards of traffic. According to Professor Hani S. Mahmassani, one of U.S.’s traffic researcher from University of Maryland, “If we didn’t have to deal with drivers’ reaction times, we could fit four times as much traffic on the highways (Discovery Times, 2003).” The traffic jams described here are the ones that mysteriously pop up without any cause.
According to Discovery Times (2003), there are five stages in the Anatomy of a Traffic Jam. First, the traffic goes smoothly with fluctuations as drivers change lanes and vary their speed. Second, the number of vehicles in the highway has exceeded the highway’s limit, which is usually 2,400 drivers per lane per hour. Although having less room, drivers still continue to maneuver their cars from lane to lane. Third, as someone changes lane, vehicles behind him would momentarily tap their brakes. Of course, the driver behind the driver would also do the same but takes a fraction of a second to react. Fourth, this slowing effect would roll down the highway, and in a matter of minutes the traffic line may extend to a mile and the route’s capacity to handle traffic diminishes by 40 percent. Lastly, other vehicles would try to get on the road by the ramps, aggravating the situation. This type of traffic jam would not dissipate until other drivers are warned to take alternate routes (Discovery Times, 2003).
This love for cars by the Americans are being used by businesses to draw in customers. An example of this is Just For Feet, a shoe store that attracted a big crowd during it’s grand opening last August 1999 in August, Georgia. The shoe store gave away a red Chevy Cavalier. Others offer car giveaways to draw crowds (Witsil, 1999).
The love for cars and other vehicle types by Americans contributed to why the US government has been increasing the taxes on oil products including gasoline. Plus, the issue of smoke emissions by cars has been bombarding the American drivers. Yet, they still want to drive their cars. The federal government has done a lot of things to get Americans out of their cars and into mass transit but still they fail.
For the Americans, their love affair with cars is not what keeps them behind a wheel. The feeling of freedom, flexibility and efficiency that these vehicles provide that keeps them there. If for other countries mass transport is their answer to commuters, for the Americans it is the automobile (Jacoby, 1999). Plus the time being alone even for a short time is very much enjoyed by Americans with cars. The drivers of cars enjoy being alone for some time to think of things to be done and what was done already. While others just simply love to the feel the wind blowing their hair, others use the opportunity to think ahead and plan.
Cars are not the only vehicles that Americans love. A growing number of drives now prefer SUVs or Service Utility Vehicles. Although love for SUVs vary, drivers feel safer in SUVs. An example of a former car driver that now prefers to drive an SUV is Chris Contardi (Johnson and Sussman, 2003). She experienced being hit by bigger vehicles twice. The first time she was hit by a drunk driver while driving a small Honda, the second time she was hit by a van in her Geo Storm. Now, she is pregnant and want to feel safer when driving, so she got a 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee (Johnson and Sussman, 2003).
Not everyone likes SUVs. A lot have been alarmed by the rate of fatalities in SUV due to rollovers. Although most fatalities due to rollovers happened because the people in the SUVs are not wearing their seatbelt. Recently, car manufacturers have redesigned SUVs and made them lower to the ground with bumpers on the level as that of a car, rather than the former design, where the level of bumpers is that of trucks. With this changes in the design, car people are still not satisfied with what car manufacturers did.
With groups that are anti-SUV around, dealers are still able to sell them fast. Many people are seeing SUVs as dangerous vehicles, but manufacturers protested that their vehicles are safe. Others still, suggest that car manufacturers make cars safer, by making cars sturdier and making SUVs more fuel-efficient.
Americans love freedom and being independent and they feel that by using cars. First, they were excited to have their driver’s license at the young age of sixteen there was a little independence there. They don’t need their parents to drive them around anymore. Then they have their own car. That means they don’t need to ride mass transit and always be in danger of snatchers, and other street delinquents. But the problem is, as cars and other vehicles in streets and highways increase in number so does the traffic worsen.
As Americans love their cars, they also love trains. Although they would choose a car over Amtrak, many have reached their frustration point of sitting in traffic. The problem with trains, especially Amtrak is that they think trains are outdated, and felt like they are treated as a commodity. Now, Amtrak is going to try and win people back into traveling and enjoying the view while not driving by their modern and deluxe train, the Acela. Amtrak is selling this merchandise to business travelers. Making travelers see that they cannot only travel fast with Acela but also have time for them. But right now, Americans would still love to drive rather that just ride.
With new technology always coming up with ways to improve fuel-efficiency, because of environmental reasons. Car manufacturers doubt the acceptance in the market for new car types. Hybrid cars are being sold now in Asia and in US. These hybrid cars may look bland because of their design, but they are most certainly fuel-efficient. These cars combine electricity with gasoline. Toyota first released it in Japan but Honda got into the American market first. The design of these cars may not be attractive, but since car manufacturers produced similar designs for their version of these hybrid cars, a person may eventually find the design cute.
But like every new design or technology for that matter, this hybrid car is not perfect. It has its downfalls. First, is the looks of the car. Toyota’s bland looking design will be given any second look when it passed by, but has futuristic insides. Honda’s hybrid looks sporty and will be given a second look, but standard inside. As for performance, both can be quite disappointing. Their design is suited for closed window travel. And the use of the air conditioner can bring down the mileage per gallon of fuel. The basic aim for these hybrid cars is greenness. Or it’s being environmentally friendly. Because they give off less emissions and higher fuel-efficiency as opposed to regular cars.
As Americans refuse to give up their cars and join carpools. San Francisco commutes are trying join carpool to reduce pollution brought about by cars. Pollution brought up by cars comprises 50% of the urban pollution, and cars can even destroy the environment while being made, and it takes up a lot of space. But people should see the advantages of joining a carpool. First, they are less stressing than driving alone. Second, recreational travel gives people time to think and lets them enjoy their travel. Third, they are able to save their gas money and have additional money to spend on other things. This practice is not only being done in the U.S., in Switzerland people have joined various carpool groups and their membership expands by as much as 50% per year.
Joining carpools is one way of reducing the over-dependency of Americans to their cars. It is also a way to lessen pollution brought by car emissions. But Americans’ love for cars would not diminish. The older the people get the more they are infatuated by cars. Americans even have songs for cars. Cars for Americans are considered a part of who they are. It their home while on the road. It provides them an office when out of their regular ones. Their love for cars can be seen on highways. The number of cars and trucks that drives on the highway already passed the 200 million mark.
Since the government cannot seem to come up with a way to get the Americans out of their cars. Even if they will be paying a high price for fuel. They should just release guidelines for choosing an environment friendly car and have them run on natural gas. They can provide incentives for people that run their car on natural gas, this way pollution emitted by cars running on gasoline will lessen. And the guideline for buying cars can eliminate or lessen the sales of cars that have low fuel-efficiency.
There are certain ways in which Americans’ love for car can stay, but still help in reducing environmental hazards brought by low fuel-efficiency cars. The U.S. government has just failed to see or work out a compromise that people will surely follow. Even if they love their cars, others even give their cars name; surely Americans love their health and life more than they do their cars. They can always look into other countries’ ways of encouraging people to have more efficient cars. But they should see to it that what they want to adapt or consider is applicable or can be readily adapted by American car buyers and users.
This love for cars is not really the fault of American people. It is also the fault of those who sell them. They advertise cars too much that they always want more car and not think of its environmental effects. Plus, manufacturers are always coming up with ways to encourage people to buy new designs. They do so by giving new features to their cars.
Instead of advertising new cars. People should think of ways to reduce its use and increase the use of public transport. America may not be boasting about their public transport system. But they sure have a good one. There are subways, BART in California, Amtrak for interstate travel, and bus. These other means of transport may be as comfortable as having to travel in your own car. But if people use public transport often, it can lessen traffic and pollution.
There are still people who do not want to give up their cars. Of course! Because it shows how rich they are. But if your car is stuck in a traffic, people will not see how expensive your car is. But what they will see is that how fast they will be able to go if there are less vehicles on the road. It is not always about the person or the car. Sometimes it is also about how to get there faster, without any hassles and without any pain.
People should really consider on giving up even one of their cars. For the sake of their health and for the good advocacy of providing future generations the chance to experience having clean air to breathe into.
Mike Johnson and Lawrence Sussman. (2003). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, SUVs stir passions. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Frank Witsil. (1999). Americans drawn to automobiles. Augusta, Georgia: Augusta Chronicle.
Jeff Jacoby. (1999). Why Americans would rather drive. Boston, Massachusetts: Globe Newspaper Company.
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