EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: The power of no-brain drive
I have pinpointed the culprit in the impending fall of Western civilization, and it is car commercials.
I’m talking about the commercials for sports utility vehicles that show them to be utterly invulnerable juggernauts, machines immune to the laws of physics.
They are for cars with exotic names like the “Chevy Tahoe” or “Pathfinder” or “Superoffroad Ego Enhancer 3000.” The commercials feature the vehicles doing anything but actually driving in a safe, sound manner.
You will see the SUVs swerving at what looks like 80 mph down a narrow, snowpacked mountain road, hurtling up vertical slopes and weaving in and out of traffic like they’re draped in teflon.
Car commercials have rapidly entered the realm of surrealism; such as the one I saw which depicted a car driving up a 90-degree slope somewhere in Yosemite, coming to rest on the top of a giant granite monolith.
What person thinks, Hey, that car defies gravity! I’m gettin’ me one of them!
In teeny-tiny letters at the bottom of the screen on all these ads you’ll see the phrase, “professional drivers on closed course,” the automotive equivalent of “don’t try this at home.”
Nobody could be so foolish as to believe these car commercials, you say?
I watch our roads sometimes, and I wonder.
The local law enforcement folks tell us time and again that a lot of the wrecks they see are people driving four-wheel drive sports utility vehicles. You pass a vehicle flipped over on the side of the road or buried in a snowbank, chances are it’s an SUV.
Seriously, I do doubt that people watch commercials featuring a Chevy Tahoe climbing Mount Everest and think they can do that – but I think something affects some folks subliminally. They believe their Chevy Tahoe will actually come with some sort of special force field that keeps them from harm, and that four-wheel drive means you can drive as fast as you want on black ice.
At the very least, these commercials do nothing to promote the notion that driving is meant to be a privilege, not an adrenaline-soaked joyride.
As any paramedic will tell you, you hit a patch of ice at an unsafe speed and it doesn’t matter what kind of car you’re in, you’re still going to get hurt. Dead is dead, and your obituary won’t note that you were driving a $50,000 SUV when you died.
I used to be a bit liberal, but as I get older and older I find that a little fascism has its appeal. For instance, how much nicer would life be if getting a driver’s license was about 20 times harder than it is now?
I, of course, would be immune to this new decree, as well as anybody I like or who gives me nifty tributes.
I jest a bit, but perhaps we do need to look harder at the image of driving that’s being put out there by money-hungry car makers.
Sure, a commercial featuring a coffee-fueled, dazed commuter trudging back and forth to work every day isn’t sexy, but it’s truer to life than these fantasies the car companies are selling us.
Besides, I bought my car mainly to get to work and back.
What’s wrong with marketing a little truth once in a while?
Sierra Sun Editor Nik Dirga
grew up in Nevada County.
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