Summary and book reviews of High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher

High and Mighty

SUVs--The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way

by Keith Bradsher

High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2002, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2004, 512 pages

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Book Summary

The auto industry wants us to believe that SUVs are safer and "greener" than ordinary cars, but the reality is they poorly protect occupants and inflict horrific damage in crashes, they guzzle gasoline, and they are hard to control. Bradsher presents a damning exposé of an industry that puts us all at risk, whether we recognize it or not.

SUVs have taken over America's roads. Ad campaigns promote them as safer and "greener" than ordinary cars and easy to handle in bad weather. But very little about the SUV's image is accurate. They poorly protect occupants and inflict horrific damage in crashes, they guzzle gasoline, and they are hard to control.

Keith Bradsher has been at the forefront in reporting the calamitous safety and environmental record of SUVs, including the notorious Ford-Firestone rollover controversy. In High and Mighty, he traces the checkered history of SUVs, showing how they came to be classified not as passenger cars but as light trucks, which are subject to less strict regulations on safety, gas mileage, and air pollution. He makes a powerful case that these vehicles are even worse than we suspect--for their occupants, for other motorists, for pedestrians and for the planet itself.

In the tradition of Unsafe at Any Speed and Fast Food Nation, Bradsher's book is a damning exposé of an industry that puts us all at risk, whether we recognize it or not.

Author's Note



For a little over a year after The New York Times assigned me to be the paper's Detroit bureau chief, I was as enthusiastic as every auto writer about the boom times that SUVs had brought to the auto industry. Then my editor asked me what happened when SUVs hit cars. It turned out that the stiff, high-riding underbodies designed for optimal off-road driving performance had made SUVs three times as likely as cars to kill the occupants of the vehicles they hit.

I have been investigating SUV problems ever since. The failures of Firestone tires on Ford Explorers, so much in the news last year, are a small part of a much deadlier problem: that SUVs are poorly suited to replace family sedans. SUVs have been shrewdly designed to exploit dozens of safety and regulatory loopholes, and they have also emerged as a disaster for safety and the environment. As the fleet of SUVs on America's roads grows older--and larger--these problems will only become worse. As I kept writing about these issues for the Times, auto executives became furious, occasionally yelling at me until they turned bright red. I don't think they're going to be too pleased with High and Mighty, either.

Introduction

Sport utility vehicles have taken over America's roads during the last decade, and are on their way to taking over the world's roads. The four-wheel-drive vehicles offer a romantic vision of outdoor adventure to deskbound baby boomers. The larger models provide lots of room for families and their gear. Their size gives them an image of safety. The popularity of SUVs has revived the economy of the upper Midwest and has helped power the American economy since the early 1990s.

Yet the proliferation of SUVs has created huge problems. Their safe image is an illusion. They roll over too easily, killing and injuring occupants at an alarming rate, and they are dangerous to other road users, inflicting catastrophic damage to cars that they hit and posing a lethal threat to pedestrians. Their "green" image is also a mirage, because they contribute far more than cars to smog and global warming. Their gas-guzzling designs increase American dependence on imported oil at a...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Washington Post

The growing grass-roots movement against the sport-utility vehicle now has a bible.

Bloomberg.com - Doron Levin

[Bradsher] pulls no punches...[he] marshals an array of facts and anecdotes to make the point [SUV's are] unsafe.

Atlantic Monthly

An intelligent reader will conclude from this meticulous and sober investigation that the [SUV] makers...have exploited a lucrative market.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer - John Marshall

Not since [Nader] has there been such a critical look at the U.S. auto industry, or one that is more timely.

Detroit Free Press

Detroit's top auto executives...will be squirming--and probably fuming--over publication of a provocative book, High and Mighty.

New York Times Book Review

...Damned if Bradsher doesn't make a point. In fact a fusillade of points...[This is a] sobering, infuriating, necessary book.

Toronto Globe and Mail

A chilling exposé on the danger of SUVs.

Toronto Star

Certain to raise public awareness of the many societal problems exacerbated by the proliferation of SUVs... a fascinating book.

Reader Reviews

Sebastian McGarigle



It took a lot of guts to write this book, especially in the climate we live in today! Thank You Keith for telling the truth that nobody wants to hear. Maybe, just maybe, somebody will hear and you will have saved a few lives. But I'm afraid it ...   Read More

Kelly

This is a MUST for anyone that is considering an SUV/already owns an SUV/ or is sharing the road with them (basically every driver). The author is well-researched and the book is a page-turner. I bought this book because I already loathed SUVs for ...   Read More

L Berry

This is an incredible read which captivates you from the very start. The discussion is somwhat shocking at first, and almost unbelievable to a novice vehicle enthusiast, but as the author lays out his facts and sources, it is apparent how truly ...   Read More

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