Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In response to your column asking why people buy the oversized sport-utility vehicles (SUVs), I can tell you I have a 1998 Ford Expedition because:

1. Safety. I was in a Honda Accord that was totaled by someone who ran a red light. I received a broken pelvis. Afterwards, I bought an Expedition.

2. Space. It carries a lot of stuff.

3. Quality. Ford trucks are excellent. I have gone to the Expedition and Excursion factories and seen these things assembled. I would buy an Expedition without considering anything else.

John McNicholas

Laurel

A Stand Against SUVs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I thought I was alone in my anger at SUVs. I believe that they are a major cause of road rage because one cannot see through or around the SUV to see when traffic is slowing.

I'm not going to "join 'em," as one of your readers did. I can't afford to buy one, and I can't afford the extra gas to feed one. Also, I simply don't want one.

Carol Ann Cairns

Bowie

Truck Driver Spared Injury

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

My wife and I both drive extended cab, full-size GMC pickup trucks. It is fortunate that we do, as my wife, while waiting at a traffic light, was hit in the rear by an Oldsmobile Cutlass.

The force of the collision destroyed the front of the Cutlass, and the driver needed medical attention. Fortunately, my wife was not injured, and her full-size truck sustained only minor damage. The police officer told my wife that if she had been in a smaller car, she probably would have been seriously injured.

So, Dr. Gridlock, I do not mind spending the few extra dollars in gasoline costs for my wife to commute to work because I know she is a lot safer out there than if she were driving a smaller vehicle.

David Powell

Aquasco

Sensitivity Is What Matters

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I have a Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck, which is longer and wider than a Suburban or an Expedition. As for your readers' concerns that these type of vehicles take up too much room in parking lots, I can tell you that I have the skill to park my vehicle wherever it needs to go. And I have the insight not to park my vehicle in a manner that could inconvenience other people.

If I feel I haven't left enough room for other drivers, then I won't park there. I believe the issue is not the size of the vehicle some of us choose to own, but rather the lack of courtesy some of the big-car owners hold toward other drivers.

Matthew Tomlins

Beltsville

Freedom to Choose an SUV

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I've read with amazement the hostile letters in your column directed toward the drivers of "large" SUVs: Expeditions, Navigators and my choice of auto--the Chevrolet Suburban.

Your question, "Why did you buy one?" can be answered simply. I wanted one. Perhaps it is because I'm from the West, where people are inclined to live and let live. Perhaps it is because I grew up in America, where freedom of choice was a value taught from infancy.

I own a Chevy Suburban so I can carry my seven-person family comfortably in one vehicle. I still have room to stow our luggage or the groceries or the camping equipment. I can tow a trailer with bicycles or a motorcycle, or just a large load of debris from the yard.

When I bought a new refrigerator, it fit in the back. I can comfortably take a carload of small children. Or teenagers.

I own a Chevy Suburban because most of the Suburban owners I've known wouldn't trade their vehicle for anything. In fact, many of them--our family included--purchased it intending for it to be the last car they would need for 15 years or more.

It is well-made, sturdy and dependable. Contrary to the smaller cars I've owned, I feel safe driving around town, around the Capital Beltway and across the country in my Chevy Suburban. And since my family is the most precious thing in my life, I feel I've done my best to protect them.

I can parallel park it with ease (practice and those big mirrors help), and I haven't found it difficult to negotiate parking lots or parking spaces.

I don't know why the angry letter-writers feel that we Suburban owners act out of some type of hostility toward them, but truly, my dream car was purchased based on the needs of my family and our desire to be safe and comfortable.

Judy Kay Frome

Hollywood

Only Problem: Sharing the SUV

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am an owner of a Chevrolet Suburban. I tried a Ford Explorer first, but could not get our gear in it without also putting some on the roof. Now I can carry two more people without any difference in gas mileage, and I don't have to figure out how to get everything inside, just toss it in.

My biggest problem: My wife drives the Suburban all the time and won't let me have it. She says she likes driving it because it makes her feel safe, and someday when we have kids, they will be safe, too.

Darren Hornauer

Centreville

Fits the Whole Family

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your readers asked why people buy the super-sized SUVs. We have just purchased a Ford Excursion. We have six kids, ages 6 to 12, and a golden retriever. Add two adults and we no longer fit into the minivans, which max out at seven passengers.

Our family lives in Philadelphia, and we got tired of having to drive two vehicles for our frequent weekend visits.

The Excursion has plenty of room for us and for luggage. Some of us actually have a need for these vehicles. We talked about getting rid of one of the kids, but this seemed like a more practical option.

Katie Gentile

Manassas Park

Problems Not Unique to SUVs

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am pleased to respond to the irrational views of some of your readers regarding "behemoth" SUVs. I use a Ford Expedition to tow a boat and trailer.

The distance between my vehicle and another in a parking lot is the same, whether it's my door swinging open or the person next to me. As for being banished to the far reaches of the parking lot, as some of your readers suggested, I already park there in an attempt to avoid door-dingers.

As for the notion that SUVs cause more pollution than other vehicles, consider this: Who causes more pollution, a person who drives an SUV about 8,000 miles a year and uses mass transit to commute, or someone driving a Corolla 25,000 miles per year commuting to work?

If you don't like the extra-large SUVs, you're going to notice when people drive them poorly. The same would happen if you believed that people who drive, say, red cars were maniacs. In my experience, no particular breed in the Washington area has a monopoly on poor driving.

Rick Marinelli

Stafford

Gee, you've got me almost convinced to run out and buy a Suburban. Your correspondence has made me realize this is a question of point of view. It's one thing to be safely looking over traffic from behind the wheel of a super-size SUV; it's another to look at them from a normal car, say in your rear-view mirror.

I still find the behemoths somewhat intimidating. Their front bumpers seem to be at head level. Their headlights, from behind and oncoming, are blinding. You can't see through or around the vehicles. They look like they could crush you in an instant's distraction. Some of them look mean.

The owners say the main reasons they have one is extra cargo capacity, and the safety that comes from operating a vehicle bigger and sturdier than others. The last point seems to lead to a leapfrog logic: the more Suburban/Expeditions that are on the road to provide greater safety over smaller cars, the more demand for even larger, heavier vehicles to be safer among the proliferating Suburban/Expeditions. Eventually you wind up with a tank. Army surplus, perhaps, refitted with tires (ammunition extra). The cost: just a little less than a mid-sized Mercedes.

Thanks to all who wrote and shared views with us, and thanks for your consideration of others. Happy motoring!

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at drgridlock@washpost.com. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.