Driving Me Nuts

For years, I drove pick-up trucks. I needed a vehicle with enough power to pull a two-horse trailer, and I wanted one with good crash test statistics. Got me a Tundra, and fell in love. Driving on the California freeways, I felt safe in that truck. I had excellent visibility and plenty of oomph. In the snow, it handled well for a truck even without 4WD, and with 4WD that truck was a beast.

Except, it was a beast that was killing the planet. 15 MPG was disgraceful, and once I no longer needed to haul a horse trailer, I could not justify owning a truck. I passed the truck onto my daughter to be her barn vehicle and got myself a used hybrid. (Daughter drives a hybrid for everyday too.)

I HATE my hybrid. Yes, it gets nearly 50 MPG, but I can’t see over the bedamned hood when the car angles uphill–not something I knew to check out on a test drive, because what idiot would design a car with a blind spot in the direction of travel? I can’t see out the back because the back seat is too high, and the little back-up camera doesn’t work for doodly-squat in high contrast light.

Last week, I ended up with flat tire. I probably got some tree limb caught in the undercarriage because the idiot car has about four inches of clearance from the road surface. I got out The Stuff, loosened the lug nuts, jacked up the vehicle… and could not get the tire off.

I kicked, I cursed, I whacked at it with my trusty hammer, but nope. I know better than to get under the car and kick, and besides, I don’t FIT under that car. Had to call the nice man, who also kicked, cursed, and whacked, but being about a foot taller and four stone heavier than yours truly, he was able to get the blasted thing off.

So fast forward a couple days later, and I’m having new front tires put on, because the hybrid “spare” is just a donut. The nice guy at the garage told me they are now making cars with no spare. Instead you get 24-hour roadside assistance connected to your on-board blue tooth.

What fresh hell is this? The reason I can’t see out of my car is because all cars are designed to accommodate “average man,” who is five foot nine, and has the weight distribution of a man. Visibility, dash layout, airbag deployment, seat design–it’s all for Average Man. Even the crash tests are done for Average Man because there are no crash test dummies built like a woman. None.

The result? Women are more likely to die or be seriously injured in traffic accidents. Well, OK. We can design seats that heat, cool, vibrate and recline, but we can’t design a car that accommodates a woman’s smaller frame or the anatomy she’s had since moving out of Eden. What are a few more dead or injured women anyway?

Then I find out we have cars with no spare tire now, the better to force drivers into road service contracts. But–oops!–there is a stretch of road not five miles from my house where there’s no cell service. There’s another stretch of road I’ve driven across where there are no services of ANY KIND for a 100 miles, and no cell service either.

Maybe a breakdown under those circumstances is fine for Average Man. But for this little old lady, or her daughter, that’s not going to fly. Why should I have to choose between a truck that gobbles up the planet and a reasonable amount of personal safety as a female driver–because those do seem to be my options.

What do you drive? Do you feel safe in that vehicle, or did you choose it for some other reason? Did you even have a choice? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 B&N gift card, and I promise I will be a in cheerier mood next week.

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25 comments on “Driving Me Nuts

  1. I love trucks too but when we were shopping for a new car we ended up with a Honda CRV as a compromise. Two old people trying to wedge themselves into and out of a sports car wasn’t something we wanted to do but a full-sized truck, while beautiful, was also overkill for living in a city with year-round great weather and not a farm/ranch in sight. So the SUV offered ease of access as well as a good overall size for us new city folks. I do miss my truck though!

  2. I have a PT Cruiser–it’s 14 years old. I can put four music stands (the metal “good kind”), two stools and several bags of stuff in the back hatch. I can get enough groceries for Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner for 15 in the back hatch too. When I take out the backseats or fold them down, I can transport rose bushes or a chest of drawers. We’ve moved two of our kids into various apartments in the city (and back again), with only about three or four trips each time….no need to rent a truck.

    Folks around here LAUGHED when I bought it because it is *cute*….and it is…. but Blue Belle has turned into the work horse of the family. And, it is easy for me to drive, since I’m SHORT (5’2″)I just have to adjust the driver’s seat the way I want it, and I’m good.

    It’s too bad they no longer make them because I’d like to be able to sync my phone when I get in the car like my spouse is able to do. Otherwise, I love my car!

  3. I drove an 07 Malibu until last year. I liked the car just fine. Always got me from here to there without any problems.

    Gave up the car last year because it had gotten too hard to move my legs. It was an accident waiting to happen. It was hard to do, but it was the right thing. I didn’t want to be “that old gal” on the 6 o’clock news who ran her car through a plate glass window (smile).

  4. I’m so sorry, Grace, for your troubles.
    Despite being happily married, I’m a firm believer that the world would be soooooo much better off if there were no men at all. Seriously. Patriarchy is the worst, and I want to slap every man out there.
    I drive an SUV that I chose to get me through Chicago unplowed roads in the middle of the night 17 years ago. So needless to say, the gas mileage sucks. Imma gonna drive that sucker into the ground, though, before I ever buy my next vehicle, which will be a used Subaru Forester.

  5. I stand 5’4”, but have a 32” inseam which means I sit as if I’m barely 5’. For half the year I drive a smaller SUV that has big, bulky (manly?) side mirrors that completely block my view of anything along the front fender and side of the vehicle. Curbs, posts, etc. are totally invisible to me no matter how high I adjust the seat. I’ve had to become hyper-observant. I share your tire concerns. My solution was to buy “run flats” which are designed to be driveable even when they have NO air pressure. They are expensive, but I once had to drive nearly 200 miles for service with no problem other than keeping my speed under 60mph.

  6. I drive a 2016 Lincoln MKT that I bought in 2017 for HALF the sticker price because it wasn’t selling. (All blinged out for thug life except it was sitting on the showroom floor of a southern town & black paint/black tinted windows in the tropics are not a desirable feature) It seats 7 women with actual electric plugs for charging laptops on conference road trips along with our gear. It hauls an ungodly amount regularly & does it while getting the exact same mileage as the manual shift Mercedes I drove until the clutch replacement would cost more than the car was worth. It has 20” wheels to get me through hurricane floods. It has sensors that actually let me know something is coming up the sides, which supplements amazingly few blind spots for what is essentially a limousine. I find it stable in gale force winds. The seats, pedals & steering wheel adjust to comfortably fit my five foot barely driving buddy while actually providing my 6’ frame & 34” legs a copious amount of room. (Most cars appear to be designed for Asian men & I’m a wee highlander by genetics) Best of all, that eco boost engine let’s me carry gas cans & evacuate in heavy traffic without running dry + function in the weeks of no power after hurricanes when the electrics are useless & the hybrids shorted out by high water. Given I get between 12 & 25 years out of my big vehicles with regular maintenance, I’m keeping waste to a minimum & my engine efficient. Until the local utilities change over to solar & wind, it’s a wash & I’m one of the few rolling after a Cat 3 while living in a coastal county, so survival is my priority.

    No need to put me in the drawing. I’ve won once already (thank you!)

  7. I drive a Honda Pilot for the simple reason that I sometimes drive my grandkids around and I want them to be as safe as possible. My last Pilot protected my grandson from certain death even when he wasn’t in the car. With no warning, on a beautiful, sunny day, a huge tree fell across my driveway. Because my Pilot was the first (of three!) cars that was hit, it nudged the tree about two feet away from the passenger compartment of my son’s car where my grandson was sitting! I still break out into a cold sweat when I think what would have happened had my Pilot instead been a little economy car. Its also important to know that crash tests only simulate a vehicle hitting a similar sized vehicle. I want my grandkids to be in a vehicle that comes out the winner in any confrontation! I do think about the environment that we will leave them as well, so I combine trips as much as possible and don’t make unnecessary excursions.

  8. I drive a 12 year old prius and I understand your frustrations with it. I live in the city and don’t end up in cell dead spots during the course of my daily life so I am quite satisfied with it. We have two kids and have never had a problem with the size, even when on a car trip. Part of it is I have never had a truck or a car with much more power so I don’t miss it and my husband has an awd sedan that is trustier in the snow if I need to borrow it. The blind spots are terrible though. When the time comes to replace it, I will definitely choose a hybrid again (I don’t think electric is in my price range) but not necessarily a prius (anyone have a ford focus hybrid?).

  9. I’ve never passed my driving test.I chickened out at the last minute many years ago.I purchased a scooter instead.Loved it and rode it to work and everywhere.Then I married and had our babies and traded it in for a pram.Years later I got another and rode everywhere for years.Then I had a heart attack and was told I could not ride it for six months.Never did again,I walk or use public transport.So I suppose it’s my bit for saving the planet.My legs and feet are holding up so far.Not sure about the rest of me!!!.

  10. I bought a (used) Honda Odyssey last year, to replace another one that I could no longer get parts for. I am usually the only passenger.

    I feel fairly safe in it, although the old one drove better. This one has an odd shudder at times when turning a corner. I’ve had it checked by 3 different shops and none of them can find a problem. Why do I drive such a large vehicle when I am usually the only passenger? Both knees have torn meniscuses. One knee that when moved a certain way will pinch something and cause intense pain and could possibly cause me to lose control of the car. This is after the knee surgery. A captain’s chair where I sit higher and my leg is bent at the knee instead of extended solves that problem and is safer for me and anyone on the road with me.

    By the way, the visibility is very good in the car. If you have dogs or have to take multiple animals in crates to the vet, I highly recommend it.

  11. Yikes!
    I still have my grey ‘04 Chevy Suburban. I bought it for hauling 6 corgis to dogs shows, the vet and to the beach. As a working Mom, I got the night shift carpool shift for cheerleading, CCD and after school events. Having the removable 3 rd seat came in handy. We live on a private road so 4WD comes in handy in the winter.

    I have been looking for a new car for awhile. I can’t see out of the rear window of the Traverse and I don’t like not being high up.
    Am thinking Tahoe because of the visibility it’s similar to a truck or suburban but smaller. I need the flat rear storage for the dog crates.

    I feel safe in the Suburban and it’s the second car I have chosen to buy. I bought it for safety reasons and I feel safe commuting to and from Boston each day on the expressway.The other car purchases were “had to” purchase items.

    Maybe there’s a truck or SUV out there for you. You need to feel safe and confident when you drive. I get the environment aspect but there’s got to be a compromise.

  12. I am so sorry you’ve experienced vehicle difficulty. But who hasn’t?
    Prior to December 2017 I drove a 2004 Toyota Avalon. It was just the right size for my 5’4″ frame. The model changed later to a much larger size that accommodates my husband’s 6’4″ frame. My car was getting up there in miles and our financial advisor suggested I look for another vehicle. I am now the proud owner of a 2018 Subaru Outback. 0% interest, you can’t beat that and my money stays put. Do I feel safe, you betcha! There are so many great safety features to include eye-sight (it lets me know when I deviate from my lane, when the car in front of me moves at a red light, alerts me when a car is coming during backing out of a parking space and much more). When cruise control is engaged, my car will maintain a speed distance of 2 car lengths without my having to brake. The back up screen is a nice size, roughly 5 x 6. I have yet to detect a blind spot. Another great feature is I can raise up the seat which provides excellent visibility.
    You may want to visit a Subaru dealer. Try it, you might like it!

  13. I drive an Acura sedan that is eight years old that I ‘inherited’ from my husband when he started working from home and our daughter took over my Honda Pilot for all her school and other activities. So, no I didn’t chose it, but for a small car it it pretty safe. It took forever to get used to it after driving SUVs for so many years of hauling multiple children to various schools and extracurricular activities.

    The one time I had a blowout it was spectacular. I was on the highway doing about 75 mph coming home from work. By the time I pulled off into a parking lot there was only bits of rubber still attached to the rim. It was still over 100 degrees and I was in no shape to fight with the tire before deep breathing. If I had been in a mobile reception dead zone, I couldn’t have called my husband to let him know what happened, much less call for a special mobile repair service.

    What genius thinks that is a good idea? Obviously, someone who lives in a big city and assumes that hybrid drivers never hit the open road – but that is still not a good excuse. There are so many problems with that. Is the car manufacturer going to guarentee auto service across the entire US? Even with cell service, I don’t want my daughter stuck in the middle of nowhere waiting for a new tire! Did I mention that with my blowout, I couldn’t sit in my car with the AC on because ALL the warning sensors were yelling at me that there was a major tire problem – at least the car knew it didn’t need to be driven anywhere. But who wants to roast inside of a vehicle waiting for their tire change?

    I’m going to stop ranting now. Just shaking my head at the wonderful new ideas people come up with. I really enjoyed Lady Mistletoe’s Holiday’s Helper!

  14. I hear you Grace! Every day when I get in my car I worry about buying a new one. I drive a 24 year old Honda Accord. It has been a fantastic car with an excellent repair record. It fits my body perfectly and has an adjustable lumbar support which is the reason I bought it in the first place. I had planned to give this car to my son when he reached driving age but we bought him another car instead. Even with my nearby family owned Honda repair shop I know its days are numbered.I started looking for a new car 2 years ago. That is when I learned that auto manufacturers were required to redesign the neck rests to prevent whiplash. Unfortunately they were designed for tall men. This means that the part of the headrest that sticks forward the farthest meets the back of my head that sticks out the farthest.If I sit up straight in the driver seat my head is forced forward and down. In some cars I have had to get out almost immediately as the neck pain has been so great. I tried someone’s large SUV and the head rest was so far forward that I could not even get in the seat without it being removed first.I have also had the experience of not being able to see the front end of the car. On a daily basis I worry about the need for a new car. I am wondering what shape and how many pillows I will need to be able to drive a new vehicle comfortably. I know I will need at least one and maybe as many as 3-one to sit higher, another at my back to sit forward more and a third to rest my neck.I read all of your columns Grace and this one has been the most pertinent. I do not see why they can not design two different headrests for the same car-one for short people and one for tall.

  15. We have 2 dealerships, Ford & GM, in this town. They are the only two within a 70 mile radius. Chevs fit me better. See all comments about being a long-legged short woman who, yes, can’t see over the hood of some vehicles without hugging the steering wheel.

    I drive a 6 cylinder, 2016 AWD Equinox, which is good for twisting, poorly maintained roads. The back seat is comfortable enough for two adults or 3 kids over long distances.

    And I share the pain of a back-up camera, in my case, screaming I needed gas while I backed into a cement support in a parking garage.

    We also had my cousin show off his new Tesla, technology beyond my comfort zone, at about the price of a full size pick-up. It takes a lot of the anxiety out of freeway driving. However, the power grid isn’t set up for everyone to charge their cars…

    And I don’t need anything, although I loved my B & N money, and would prefer not to bring my red pen to someone’s ARC.

  16. I helped my late father pick out my current vehicle. His back was fused in the lumbar region and he was blessed with size 15 feet. Our choices were limited by his ability to get in and out without hurting himself. We ended up choosing a Mitsubishi Outlander. The current Outlander is a replacement for one that was totaled after another SUV decided to make a right turn from the left turn lane on a road with a 50-mph speed limit. Everyone from the insurance co to the collision shop looked at the damage and was amazed that I made it out without serious injury. The consumer people pan the Outlander,but I’m getting 26 mpg on average with good power and a ground clearance that doesn’t do a number on my knees. As for considering a hybrid, Dad never would have bit on the idea. The connections aren’t standardized yet, so charging away from home can be iffy and if it’s like that in a major city, small town/rural would be a nightmare.

  17. Hi Grace,
    Get rid of the hybrid and get another truck. Safety and being able to handle country roads is very important. Jackie

  18. I am so sorry about your car. I hate spending a large amount of money on something that doesn’t meet expectations. I drive a 2013 Mini Cooper. I love it, but it isn’t a practical car. My husband bought it for me when I turned 50, and most of my children were grown. Prior to that I drove mini-vans for 20 years, which was sensible, and despised . It was the station wagon of my generation. The Mini has poor visability at stop lights, and doesn’t really work for me when my back is out. Maintenance is expensive. I have to crane my neck down to be able to see when the light turns. I had run flat tires which went flat yearly. I now have regular tires with a spare that lives in my garage. I only drive it around town, and when I travel, I borrow my husbands truck which I also love. It is a Honda Ridgeline. Good milage especially when you turn on the Eco option. The negative of that is that you have to change the transmission fluid every 30,000 miles, which is pricey. As I have gotten older, I have embraced the thought of loving what you drive. Why be miserable?

  19. I drive a 2004 PT Cruiser. It’s been a great car for me (I’m 5 ft 0 in) but the headroom is low for my husband and it doesn’t do well in slushy messy snow. One winter I got stuck three times in a day – twice in my driveway! So my next car will have AWD. Subarus are very popular here in Wyoming and I will look at other crossovers. Probably used and it WILL have a spare tire!

  20. I drove a 4 door Mazda Protege until I’d replaced the clutch twice in 2 yrs… and the odometer was over 220,000. Now the proud owner of a 2014 silver Nissan LEAF, all electric vehicle. Have never run out of power yet [knocking on wood table]- and love how I can control how much power I use. I also take public transportation.
    I feel very safe- it seems slightly larger than the Protege, and a bit higher off the ground. There are usually 2 of us, occasionally 3, but we’ve also had 5– so it’s very accommodating.

  21. I loved my Toyota RAV4(which my husband now drives)so when I decided to upgrade to a slightly bigger car(for traveling across WA)I choose the Toyota Highlander. They both fit my 5′ for seeing over the hood.

  22. They really should put me in a commercial for Jeep Patriots…this one is my fourth. I love them! Good in snow (necessary here in Michigan), good visibility because of the huge windows, easy to climb in/out of whether in a dress or bulky winter coat, nice room in the backseat for passengers, and plenty of room in the “way, way back” as we called the trunk when we were kids. Even my brothers, who are all over 6 feet tall, find enough leg room. I’m sure it’s not the BEST gas mileage, but I wouldn’t be caught on the highway in one of those teeny, tiny, dinky little plastic chairs with wheels, AKA economy cars. Sorry, economy car-owners…but Jeep is the way to go, in my case, anyway. If I was younger (or knew how to drive shift) I would so definitely be driving one of those sporty ‘real’ Jeeps with the roll bar. Sigh. Okay, being younger has nothing to do with it. I never learned to drive shift.