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Clinic Offers Safety Tips for SUV Owners

June 12, 2002|John O'Dell

In addition to being blamed for global warming, freeway crowding, the lack of decent parking spaces at the mall and America's dependence on foreign oil, owners of sport utility vehicles often face criticism from the anti-SUV crowd for buying vehicles they claim aren't safe and aren't needed.

Indeed, SUVs do have a higher center of gravity than other vehicles, which makes them less stable in some circumstances. And there are estimates that fewer than 20% of all SUVs are driven off-road--although going off-road was a major reason for the introduction in the early 1980s of the family-friendly, four-wheel-drive vehicles.

But some people who purchase SUVs, whether compact Jeep or giant Hummer, do plan to use them for their intended purpose of making off-road trips possible.

To help them do so with a maximum of safety and enjoyment and a minimum of ecological impact, the California Assn. of Four Wheel Drive Clubs periodically offers a one-day SUV safety clinic on a special course at the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area, just off Interstate 5 near Gorman.

The class won't make SUVs acceptable to those who don't like them and don't see why anyone else would. But chief instructor Harry Baker says it can help owners and drivers better understand and manage their vehicles for maximum safety--on road and off.

The next clinic is Saturday. Although preregistration is encouraged (www.4x4quest.com; (818) 705-3930), Baker says people who show up the morning of the class won't be turned away.

Fee for the all-day program is $85 a person.

The clinic includes a four-hour classroom session devoted to vehicle preparation, safety and environmental issues, and a four-hour driving session that helps SUV owners understand the pluses and minuses of their vehicles by teaching them to handle the terrain and obstacles they would typically experience on an off-road trip.

John O'Dell

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