(Car) Size Matters
Before you go calling the cops to report some crazy lady driving around with seriously screwed up vision or something, let me explain. I drive a Honda Civic. It’s small, it’s efficient, I can park it anywhere, and it perfectly suited my needs as a single girl in her 20s. It’s not quite as perfect in my current mode as 30-something suburban mother, but it’s fine. The car seat fits in the back, the stroller fits in the trunk along with a few grocery bags, and the gas mileage is still good. Plus I don’t have the money for a new car and this one is paid off. So, until the day it dies and I have no choice, the Civic is my mode of transportation. And I like it. It’s a fun little red car and driving around in it with the sunroof open and the music playing still makes me really, really happy.
But, boy, does it sit low to the ground. Especially compared to the fleet of minvans and SUVs that have taken over the roads since I bought my Civic 13 years ago.
I know. I know. You NEED your minivan or SUV because it’s the only thing that fits three cars seats, or half the soccer team, or the piles of art supplies, or an entire Costco run plus both kids. I know. And it’s fine. Drive your big cars. It’s a free country and you can drive whatever vehicle suits you.
I do feel entitled to complain about how unsafe they make me feel on the road or in parking lots, though.
At first, it wasn’t so bad when the cars got higher and higher off the ground. Sure, I’d be behind an SUV and have to crane my neck upwards a bit to see through it so I’d know where the stoplights were up ahead and what color they were. But then car-makers decided to make all windows the approximate shade and opacity of mascara. Do you know what an SUV with tinted window looks like to a person driving behind it? A giant, SUV-shaped block of lead. I can’t see over, around, or through it. I am totally reliant on the SUV driver’s reflexes and reactions because I can’t make my own judgments about the road ahead if I can’t see it. I get stuck in traffic behind a black-windowed SUV and wonder not when I’ll be able to move, but why I can’t. Is there an accident ahead? Someone parked in a driving lane? A school bus? I have no idea. The only information I can get from looking ahead in those situations is the dealership that sold the SUV and where the owner’s kids are honor students. The road is not part of my field of vision. At all.
Parking lots are also scary. It’s not unusual for my little Civic to be sandwiched between two SUVs or minivans since the locations I frequent are popular with the mom set. And backing out when the cars on either side of me are a third again as long as my car, two feet taller than my car, and offer no transparent surfaces for me to peek through makes pulling out of a parking spot feel a little like hurtling backward out of a blind chute.
And don’t get me started on how freakin’ angry I get when I find a coveted row of “Compact Only “ parking spaces and see that some SUV is wedged into one of the slots. SUVS ARE NOT COMPACT!!!!!! Those spots are physically smaller than regular spots and they are often the only haven of safe backing-out for us little car people. Please, please, please, stay out of them if you drive a car larger than a four-door sedan. You don’t belong there.
But at least in parking lots people are going pretty slow. When one of these vision-blocking cars parks on a street corner and I’m trying to make a turn around it, I’m playing a blind game of chicken because I can’t see oncoming traffic.
Yeah, there’s a lot of SUV drivers out there who may have done it out of an “If you can't beat them, join them philosophy. That is particularly seductive when you realize that in an SUV v. compact car collision, the SUV will win. But, like I said, I can’t afford a new car so I’m just driving as safely as I can in my little car. And I’m going to ask the big car drivers out there to take a few minutes to think when they’re driving. Think about the car you’re pulling in front of when you change lanes. Will the driver lose their view of the road when you get in front of them? If so, please wait and change lanes in front of a car that you won’t obstruct. When you’re parking, pick a spot next to another big car, not a little one who won’t be able to see around you to get out of the space. And stay the heck out of spots labeled for compact cares. Finally, if you have to park on the street, try to do it mid-block so everyone has a shot at seeing oncoming traffic when they need to turn, rather than parking right on the corner.
We little car people will thank you and maybe you’ll help prevent an accident.
This is an original DC Metro Moms post
Rebekah drives her little car around Montgomery County and blogs at Mom-in-a-Million.