Driven to Extremes: Fear of Crime and the Rise of the Sport Utility Vehicle in the United States

This article explores the interrelationship between the fear of crime and the rise in popularity of sport utility vehicles (SUVs). The author notes that the SUV boom has attracted widespread coverage in the mainstream media but little scholarly attention. This article examines the historical and social context of the SUV through analysis of popular press accounts, automotive reviews and trade news, and SUV print advertisements. The author contends that the SUV’s popularity reflects American attitudes toward crime, random violence, and the importance of defended personal space. The author focuses on consumer attraction to the SUV, typically attributed to two key features: safety and interior space. However, safety not really road safety but personal safety. Space is not interior cargo space but social space, including the privileged ability to traverse inhospitable terrain to remove oneself from society. The author concludes with a discussion of the irony of choosing a vehicle for safety that actually becomes part of the problem: economically (a threat to national security by continuing American over-reliance on oil from the Middle East), physically (a threat to pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers of smaller cars), socioeconomically (the unequal allocation of natural resources) and environmentally (poor gasoline mileage).


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Print
  • Features: Figures; Photos; References;
  • Pagination: pp 149-168
  • Serial:
    • Crime Media Culture
    • Volume: 1
    • Issue Number: 2
    • Publisher: Sage Publications, Incorporated
    • ISSN: 1741-6590

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01052091
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 28 2007 12:15PM