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Eddie Cunningham: Cold war: time SUV show-offs got a grip

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Drivers warned to take extra care as temperatures plummet

Drivers warned to take extra care as temperatures plummet

Drivers warned to take extra care as temperatures plummet

THEY were more to be pitied than laughed at, but I laughed at them. SUV snobs of the tarmac, their sunglasses lifting cosseted hair off their brows all year, hadn't a clue how to use the technological prowess of their machines (4x4s) to get them through a few miserly centimetres of snow.

What an apposite summation of everything that was wrong with the Celtic Tiger. Form before substance, want before need, credit before it is earned.

Now here they were, exposed for the first time as the SUV shams they -- and thousands like them -- have become.

They spent heavily and heartily on getting the big bruisers under their trim bums.

But they never bothered those same bums to even try to understand what it was they were steering.

If they had they would not have been spinning their wheels like flailing windmills or fish-tailing their SUVs by trying to make power -- as opposed to skill -- count against the relatively mild, but unfamiliar, elements.

It just so happened that we were slowly travelling along the M50 southbound as New Year approached.

I was a tad concerned, not for myself, but for my passengers and, like most others, drove with extreme caution and as slowly as possible.

It afforded us -- and the few other souls attempting, like us, to be stationary and on terra firma before we bellowed Happy New Year -- an opportunity to witness appalling examples of how clueless some drivers can be.

But, whether by coincidence or design, the ones that stood out, even in the blinding white of snowfall, were those in their large 4x4s and SUVs dizzying around like Michael Jackson in full flight as they attempted to drive up a couple of off-ramps.

One man (in case you think that this is directed at female drivers) showed absolutely no understanding whatsoever of how to use his powerful 4x4 by stabbing bursts of power to the wheels and then clunking to a halt.

In the 30 seconds or so we could see him, he managed to get the vehicle crossways on the ramp and jeopardise two others behind him. All he had to do was let the 4x4 power ease him to the top.

That's what 4x4 means -- each wheel gets power so all contribute to the push and none has to be dragged by the others as is the case in most of our conventional motor cars.

And if your vehicle does not have permanent 4x4, it almost certainly has it available at the push of a button or flick of a switch, unless you have availed of the more recent 4x2 (two-wheel-drive only) phenomenon. In which case you join the rest of us in snaking along.

That little bit of snow covered the country but also managed to expose so many SUV owners for not having even bothered to understand what magnificent ability they had at their disposal. There was nothing on the roads over the last week that should have been a cause of undue concern to anyone with a 4x4. I'm not being cavalier about this because every driver has to exercise caution and courtesy at all times.

But it was ridiculous to hear people with big SUVs lying up in the driveway saying they weren't able to get to the office or shops.

OF course, they shouldn't feel pressurised to take to the roads but I believe if many of them had an inkling of how capable their vehicles were they would not have been so scared of taking them sure-footed and safe to wherever they wanted to go.

The snow also exposed two other kinds of SUV drivers: the bullies and the aficionados.

The bullies paraded their big motors, and sent slush, grit and muck spiralling our way by driving too fast. Again, they were typical of so many who feel they are entitled to the freedom of the road just because they sit higher in bigger vehicles.

But the saving grace, although in a minority, were those who drive SUVs/4x4s because they value their vehicles for their grip in poor conditions and their ability to overcome with some ease the relatively minor obstacles posed by a wet, windy or chilly spell.

They can justifiably say they bought for pleasure and purpose.

No spinning of wheels there; no slinging of mud and slush in your direction just because you're in a family saloon or estate.

Indeed no. There were the real motorists, the people who want to have a big comfortable 'car' and the technological underpinnings that make it safer and more likely to withstand the minor slings and arrows our winters can hoist in their direction.

For those who don't realise how lucky they are to have such a wonderful beast in their driveway, may I suggest you take a few minutes and talk to your dealer or read the manual that comes with your SUV so you can get even a tiny idea of what it is about.

Judging from the antics of those I saw over the past week or so, there are a lot out there who need to take some time out.

And it would benefit us all if they did so.

I've seen enough unnecessary wheel-spinning to last me a long time. So please chill out, folks, and get to grips with what you have.

ecunningham@independent.ie

Irish Independent