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LA Auto Club Provides Safe Driving Tips for SUV Owners

    LOS ANGELES--Jan. 15, 2003--Sport utility vehicle owners can lessen some concerns about their vehicles' safety by brushing up on their driving techniques, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
    The head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today expressed concern about the increased rollover risks and higher injury and fatality rates for collisions involving SUVs. Motorists can help minimize these risks by taking a few extra safety precautions when driving larger vehicles.
    "Sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickups have different handling characteristics than cars," said Steve Mazor, principal automotive engineer for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "One in three vehicles on the road today is a light truck of some kind, so it's more important than ever for owners of these vehicles to familiarize themselves with safe driving techniques."
    One key difference between cars and their larger counterparts is stopping distance. SUVs can require a greater braking distance than automobiles, particularly in bad weather.
    Another difference is the center of gravity, which is higher in light trucks than in most cars. This can lead to a greater likelihood that the driver will lose control with sudden, jerky steering. When the four-wheel drive is missing or not activated in SUVs, they use rear-wheel drive and can be more prone to skidding because they have less weight over the driving wheels.

    The Auto Club offers the following safe-driving tips for SUV and other light truck drivers:

    -- Avoid a "road warrior" mentality. "Some SUV drivers operate
    under the false illusion that they can ignore common rules of
    caution because they're protected by a bigger vehicle or
    four-wheel drive traction," Mazor said. "Overconfidence in
    your vehicle's abilities can lead to serious collisions."

    -- To reduce the risk of a collision in bad weather, familiarize
    yourself with your SUV's performance. Practice driving in an
    empty parking lot or other open space while the pavement is
    slick to get used to the brakes, steering and overall

-- Most new SUVs have anti-lock brakes; check to see if yours does. When making a quick stop with anti-lock brakes, maintain firm and constant pressure on the brake pedal.
-- Check your vehicle mirrors to make sure they minimize your blind spots on either side of your vehicle. Because of SUVs' width, the mirrors may require a more outward adjustment. The adjustment may also help you to spot smaller vehicles more readily.
-- Be aware of all the vehicles around you in traffic, particularly the smaller ones.
-- Review your owner's manual regarding handling characteristics of your vehicle and four-wheel drive operation and performance, if applicable.

    The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by the organization's emergency road service, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing, buying and financing programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services, highway and transportation safety programs and legislative advocacy. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at