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SUVS are great for off-road – but youngsters should use care

By Bill Kight

SUVS are great for off-road – but youngsters should use care



The Jeep is a great outdoor vehicle for the backcountry. It allows people to go places that were unthinkable a few generations ago.

Built originally for the Army during World War II, it wasn’t long after the war that surplus Jeeps became available to the general public. They are the model after which a whole set of vehicles have evolved into what is known as SUVs – or sport utility vehicles.



There are many places in the backcountry where folks can enjoy “four-wheeling” without tearing up the country or illegally going off road when they should stay on designated roads and trails only.

My favorite place is the old jeep trail across the flattops from Bison Lake to Elk Lakes. Originally punched through with jeeps after World War II, it later became a officially designated Forest Service road.

But my purpose today is not to talk about the fun of four-wheeling. My concern rests solely with young people and the propensity of all SUVs to roll over.

You’ll see the connection soon.

The fact is that safety experts warn us that sport utility vehicles are three times more likely to roll over in a crash than other passenger cars.

Now, before the self-appointed defenders of our “great American right to own an SUV and by-God go wherever we want to go” crowd gets up in arms be advised that I own an SUV myself. It’s a Ford Explorer, just so you know.

That said, put your letter-to-the-editor pen down and listen up. This isn’t about off-road issues.

I am talking today to young people, graduating seniors in particular. What I have to say comes from a father’s heart.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and two other teens were in a Jeep that rolled over. They were on pavement, going the speed limit. All had their seat belts on.

No one was killed and for that I am eternally grateful.

But Shandra, our 17-year-old, suffered a concussion. For a couple of weeks after the accident, she had the usual symptoms: emotional ups and downs, inability to concentrate, frequent tiredness, etc.

Her doctor told her the effects could last for months and that she could drop a whole letter grade in school. As a good student, that could hurt. But not wanting to be treated differently, she never told her teachers about her struggles.

This is not my first experience as a father with rollovers. Years ago, my daughter DeAnza had a blowout on her Suzuki Samurai, and it rolled. The only thing that saved her life was her seat belt.

It’s hard enough for drivers with years of experience to not overcorrect when any vehicle strays off pavement. Young, inexperienced drivers who think they can handle anything in life scare the hell out of me.

You’ve graduated. Life awaits you. There are parties. It’s time for fun.

Always remember: Drive sober. Drive safely and with everyone’s seat belts as if your life depended on it. It may very well.

Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week. This week he dedicates his column to all graduating seniors wishing them a great life.Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week. This week he dedicates his column to all graduating seniors wishing them a great life.


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