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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - October 4, 2002: Sport Utility Vehicles - 2002-10-03

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

One of the most popular kinds of car in the United States is not really a car at all. It is a combination of a car and a truck. It is called a sports utility vehicle, or S-U-V. Some people criticize the vehicles. They say S-U-Vs use too much fuel and increase air pollution. They also say the vehicles may even be dangerous in some situations.

The market for S-U-Vs continues to grow. About twenty-two percent of all cars and trucks sold in America are S-U-Vs. One reason may be that the S-U-V seems like a vehicle that can do many different things. Brock Yates is an official for Car & Driver Magazine. He says that women like S-U-Vs. He says the vehicles have a lot of space to transport children and food.

Many Americans like the feeling they get from driving an S-U-V. The vehicles are larger than other cars on the road. This gives many drivers a feeling of safety. Yet, the size of S-U-Vs is a concern. S-U-Vs use more fuel than passenger cars. S-U-Vs are designed with larger engines because they are meant to carry heavy loads. In fact, they are considered light trucks by the government.

Car-makers have been designing larger S-U-Vs as the vehicles grow more popular. For this reason, the average fuel use for light trucks has not changed much since nineteen-eighty-five.

S-U-Vs also produce more pollution than passenger cars do. S-U-Vs create large amounts of carbon dioxide, a gas that is said to cause climate change. One study found that an S-U-V will release about two times as much carbon dioxide as a car over the life of the vehicle. Critics say S-U-Vs also produce more substances like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. These gases form polluted air, or smog.

There is evidence that S-U-Vs may not be as safe as many people believe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration compared S-U-Vs and normal cars in deadly accidents. Its study found that car passengers died in eighty percent of deadly accidents between cars and S-U-Vs. Other studies showed that S-U-Vs can turn over more easily than cars. The vehicles do not have the same safety requirements as passenger cars.

The Department of Transportation continues to study information about S-U-Vs. For now, the vehicles remain among the most popular in America.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Mario Ritter.