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

Legroom to Spare

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Why do people have their undies in a twist over the large SUVs? I find my Suburban a very comfortable car, and my 1990 model is one of the safest cars on the road, even without air bags.

I am tall, with long legs, and I can drive the car for hours and not feel my knees are under my chin. Also, the Suburban has the wheelbase of a full-size pickup truck, which I need to balance my horse trailer. The Suburban is basically a pickup with seats.

Dr. Gridlock, we extra-large sport-utility drivers get around just fine.

TRISH CONK

Lake Ridge

Driving SUVs With Care

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

Three Basic Reasons

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 of:

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

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

Gee, you almost have persuaded me 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 rearview 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.

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

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday in Prince William 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.