America’s love affair with the pickup truck is the latest battlefield in the unending culture wars, with liberal pundits decrying these 4,000-pound killing machines, and conservatives clinging to their beloved Rams and Silverados.
After an oblivious pickup driver nearly ran Dan Neil over in a Costco parking lot, the Wall Street Journal columnist echoed the arguments of the gun control crowd and focused his attention on the tool itself, and not the user. Why, he wrote, are these square-jawed vehicles getting so damn huge?
These “behemoths,” he wrote, are deadly for pedestrians caught in front of their chrome grilles, and pack in so many luxury features that they hardly qualify as work vehicles anymore.
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Online, a cohort of liberal commentators agreed. Pickup trucks, which now account for roughly 70 percent of all new vehicles sold in the US, have “have basically been deliberately designed to intimidate and kill pedestrians,” journalist Ryan Cooper tweeted. It’s “pretty f**ked” how “we’re not talking about whether they ‘belong on city streets,’” New York reporter Dave Colon added.
sales of mega-pickups, which have basically been deliberately designed to intimidate and kill pedestrians, are booming https://t.co/RpCLHH3PCE
— ryan cooper (@ryanlcooper) August 3, 2020
Conservatives, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz, lined up to sneer at the liberal journos. “Blue check-marks are afraid of pick-up trucks,” the former presidential candidate jibed.
blue check-marks are afraid of pick-up trucks https://t.co/45P9GXo4xv
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 3, 2020
NOTHING screams “I’m a loser” quite like thinking pickup trucks have been “deliberately designed” to “intimidate and kill pedestrians.”
This is tin-foil hat levels of being the biggest weenie on the planet. https://t.co/zKrcZb7LXn
— Claude Loves Guarantee Mechanisms (@Th3Claude) August 3, 2020
In reality, the picture is a little different than either the red-blooded pickup drivers or the city-slicking Prius owners would have you believe.
No one needs an assault pickup truck. They are pickup trucks of war.
— Nathan Wurtzel is a silly name, but it’s mine (@NathanWurtzel) August 3, 2020
Designers do accentuate the aggressiveness of these vehicles’ grilles, with one GM designer writing “We spent a lot of time making sure that when you stand in front of this thing it looks like it’s going to come get you.” The end result of this marketing move is a vehicle that’s decidedly less safe for pedestrians, according to multiple studies.
What Neil’s article glossed over, however, is that many of the newer pickups include a bevy of features designed to minimize this risk. Ford offers automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection technology as standard across most trim levels, Chevrolet’s monstrous Silverado HD comes with similar features on advanced packages, while the Dodge Ram 2500 includes blind spot monitoring.
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Furthermore, while pickup trucks are often seen as the vehicle of choice of red-state conservatives, their recent growth in size and weight has its roots in both a protectionist 1964 tariff favoring larger domestic vehicles over smaller imports, and a 2011 Obama administration policy that favored larger vehicles over the stringent environmental regulations applied to smaller ones.
So when you’re staring down the menacing grille of a Silverado, Ram or Denali in a Costco parking lot, remember that these roided-out megatrucks are a bipartisan slice of American life, for better or worse.
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