Government protection of life and limbs doesn’t rank high in America, the Constitution’s guarantee of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness notwithstanding. Unlike in Europe where vehicular and pedestrian deaths are declining, they’ve been on a steady upswing in America. Cycling deaths are up 44 percent over the past decade, and pedestrian deaths have risen 82 percent since 2009.
In 2021, nearly 43,000 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents—a more than 10 percent increase from the previous year. A report issued last month revealed that in 2019 alone, traffic crashes cost America $319 billion.
Two factors are primarily responsible for America’s dismal’s road safety. One is road design, which city planner and author Jeff Speck explained in a recent commentary. The other is a surge in SUVs.
From a 2018 investigative report in the Detroit Free Press:
Data analyses by the Free Press/USA TODAY and others show that SUVs are the constant in the increase [in pedestrian deaths] and account for a steadily growing proportion of deaths. Our investigation found: Federal safety regulators have known for years that SUVs, with their higher front-end profile, are at least twice as likely as cars to kill the walkers, joggers and children they hit, yet have done little to reduce deaths or publicize the danger.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, also known as “Mayor Pete” for having previously served as Hizzoner for the city of South Bend, feigns he wants to improve road safety through a new initiative called Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) Grant Project. Buttigieg weeks ago announced $800 million in grant awards for 510 road improvement projects across the country.
“Every year, crashes cost tens of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars to our economy; we face a national emergency on our roadways, and it demands urgent action,” Buttigieg said. “We are proud that these grants will directly support hundreds of communities as they prepare steps that are proven to make roadways safer and save lives.”
Addressing roadway safety without addressing the growing deaths caused by SUVs is akin to trying to manage the Covid pandemic without addressing obesity. Most Covid deaths involve people with underlying conditions that often are the result of severe overweight caused by eating processed foods, sugary drinks, and a sedentary lifestyle, but the Biden Administration and its entrenched media enablers don’t encourage remedies. In fact, the media rails against “fat shaming” and celebrates overweight people on the cover of magazines.
Curbing the presence of SUVs and trucks is a political nonstarter, as selling vehicles much larger than most Americans need is how GM and Ford rack up their billions of dollars in annual revenues. It also would put an instant end to Ford’s EV efforts, given the company’s only electrical vehicles are its made-in-Mexico Mustang SUV and its Ford Lightning truck. Among the cities receiving Buttigieg’s road safety dollars are Detroit, home to GM and next door to Dearborn, where Ford is located. Buttigieg last year officially declared himself a Michigan resident.
If Buttigieg was indeed serious about improving road safety, he would heed the warnings of auto safety experts and automotive critics and call for a permanent sales ban of GM’s Hummer EV pickup and banish the few that have been sold from U.S. roads. That GM CEO Mary Barra seeks to profit on a vehicle so hazardous to other drivers, particularly those in smaller vehicles like the Chevy Bolts she also sells, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, suggests a certain moral and ethical depravity.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise given Barra’s obscene $29 million in 2021 compensation, well above the average $18.5 million paid to America’s other overpaid CEOs. Barra’s ratio of total compensation to the median of all GM employees’ total compensation was 420-1. By comparison, the average S&P company’s CEO-to-worker pay ratio was 324-1
(The Hummer) “is the most irresponsible car ever made by General Motors, or any automaker for that matter,” declared Canadian blogger John Chow. “In their quest to make the electric pickup go like hell, they seems (sic) to have forgotten a car needs brakes.”
I railed about the Hummer’s inadequate brakes in this post last month, but additional evidence about the truck’s dangers has emerged and more experts have warned about the vehicle’s brakes than I was previously aware. The Hummer, a monster truck weighing more than 9,000 pounds – the battery alone weighs as much as a Honda Civic — has blind spots hazards that cyclists and pedestrians in urban cities, particularly those with crosswalks, need to understand.
Mary Barra and her designers and engineers are EV neophytes, and the evidence is mounting just how out of their depths they really are.
I urge you to watch at least a portion of the accompanying video a Hummer EV buyer made of his horrific experience shortly after taking delivery of the pickup truck, for which he paid $115,000. The car’s operating system died in the left turn lane of a busy Colorado intersection in a rainstorm, requiring a police vehicle to alert traffic. It took a tech savvy friend to figure out where the wire to manually put the truck into towing mode was and how to engage it. In the annals of horrific automotive experiences excluding crashes, the video will forever rank as a classic.
Given that it was raining, it’s possible the hapless Hummer EV owner whose truck became inoperable was the victim of a faulty battery seal, allowing water to seep in. GM last October recalled all its Hummers because of the design defect, admitting it was aware of three disabled Hummer EV pickups, two of which would not start and the third lost power on the road.
In early 2022, GM issued a technical service bulletin for improperly sealed A-pillars that could let in water, which could cause the window switches and driver’s side mirror to malfunction. Owners also complained about the Hummer EV’s removable roof panels, which could let in collected water.
Emme Hall, who reviewed the Hummer for a tech publication called The Verge, last week sounded more alarms about the vehicle, while also noting the pickup truck’s inadequate brakes. Hall’s damning takedown of the Hummer rivals Bloomberg reviewer Hannah Elliott’s epic trashing of GM’s electric Cadillac Lyriq. Makes me wonder whether female auto reviewers aren’t more knowledgeable about cars and trucks, or at least take sufficient pride in their work to make clear they aren’t beholden to the whims of deceptive spinmeisters like the PR reps GM has long employed.
What makes Hall’s review so delicious is that she’s clearly experienced with off roading, and she put the Hummer through the paces, and the vehicle failed miserably. The opening paragraph of Hall’s review nicely prepares the reader for the journey on which she plans to take them.
Fasten your seatbelts, which fortunately GM hasn’t yet recalled on its Hummers.
If you want an EV that makes sense, you should not buy the GMC Hummer EV. If you want an EV that’s affordable, you should not buy the GMC Hummer EV. If you want an EV that’s efficient or luxurious, you should not buy the GMC Hummer EV.
Is there any reason to spend $110,000 on this ghastly behemoth? I spent a week trying to figure it out, and frankly, I’m still left wondering.
Here’s Hall warning about the Hummer’s impressive ability to go from 0 to 60 in three seconds but its inadequacy going from 60 to a full stop:
Engage the Watts to Freedom, otherwise known as WTF, mode (no, I’m not kidding — that’s what GMC calls it), and the three electric motors unleash all 1,000 horsepower, propelling the truck from a dead stop to 60mph in a GMC-estimated three seconds. I’m not going to lie — it’s super fun, but stopping is terrifying. The road runs out quickly when your truck is this heavy and can go this fast, so play carefully.
Hall apparently didn’t read the Hummer’s manual because somewhere there’s an advisory saying not to engage WTF unless in a closed off area. I learned that watching a mechanic named Scotty Kilmer’s YouTube channel, who mentioned the advisory in passing. I’m guessing the advisory is for legal purposes, so when someone is killed or maimed because of the feature, GM lawyers will tell the jurors, “WTF? It says very clearly in the manual only to engage in a closed area.”
Hall also discusses some of the Hummer’s visibility issues:
The extreme width means the side blind spots are pretty terrible, so be prepared to use that monitoring system — you’ll need the extra help. Forward visibility is compromised, too, with that short windshield and long hood.
I can’t do justice summarizing Hall’s biting criticisms of the Hummer’s off-road capabilities, but even if you aren’t into the sport it’s an enjoyable read because of her passion and knowledge.
Hall isn’t the only reviewer to sound the alarm about the Hummer’s inadequate breaks. Here’s what a MotorTrend reviewer said about the electric Hummer in an otherwise gushing review last April:
Even with its crazy amount of regenerative braking, this truck absolutely does not have brakes commensurate with its power and speed capabilities.
The trade publication Inside EVs appreciated the Hummer’s dangers even before the vehicle was available, based on the vehicle’s monstrosity. This comment from Joseph Young, director of media relations at IIHS (Insurance Institute of Highway Safety), was representative of some of the warnings included in a May 2021 article.
The amount of horsepower (the Hummer EV) will reportedly have is certainly a concern given the relationship between horsepower and speeding. A study we did a few years ago found that high-horsepower vehicles are more likely to exceed the speed limit, particularly by 10 mph or more. They also have higher mean speeds than vehicles with less powerful engines.
Jason Levine, the executive director at the Center for Auto Safety, said that even if the Hummer’s WTF isn’t engaged, the vehicle could still prove to be a roadway menace.
The reality is that any vehicle at that height and weight, lacking appropriate advanced safety features, is potentially very dangerous to vulnerable road users regardless of how it is powered. That said, decreasing the time such a vehicle takes to accelerate will not increase safety.
The Hummer isn’t the only GM vehicle causing road safety experts concerns. GM’s self-driving Cruise taxis are wreaking havoc on San Francisco streets. San Francisco Transportation Authority (SFTA) officials have challenged Cruise’s request for unlimited expansion because of recent safety incidents in which vehicles blocked traffic and interfered with emergency vehicles. The NTSA is reportedly probing Cruise’s self-driving vehicles for hard breaking, traffic blocking, and other issues.
There’s a growing consensus that self-driving vehicles are years away from becoming a reality, and some believe they are a “scam.” Barra more than a year ago posted on LinkedIn that her Cruise unit “was on the cusp” of commercialization.
Barra also has repeatedly said that by mid-century, she will be selling more electric vehicles than Elon Musk. I imagine the people who are clueless enough to believe that are the sorts who would buy a Hummer EV.