December 2007


The Changing Face of SUVs

By The Car Family

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/auto/index.html

For more vehicle reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/home/h2-hummer-do-you-need-attention-this-badly/

The king is dead. Long live the queen. Large SUVs with their horrible safety records and undignified gas gulping habits are being offered at fire sale prices. Trying to fill this gap consumer are looking for a vehicle that improves their family’s chance for survival in a crash as well as getting acceptable fuel mileage and offering a decent amount of cargo space. The answer has become the crossover SUVs and the continuation of the hybridization of the remaining dinosaurs for those that still believe that they need to 6000 pounds of expensive matter in their driveway for whatever rationalized reason they can make themselves believe.

The sad news is that all of those large Hummer H2 type vehicles are going to be on the road for many years as they are passed down to those even less financially able to pay for their maintenance. The result is going to be a fleet of battleship sized vehicles that even when new take much longer to stop than cars and that with reduced maintenance will pose even more of a danger to innocents.

Thankfully, nearly all the major manufacturers except Land Rover have noticed this trend and produced much more efficient vehicles. Land Rover, with a record of quality control that has not been seen since the Yugo, continues on its merry way with little acknowledgement of the changing public needs as they experience improving sales figures to those who could care less about the environment, quality challenged vehicles, ergonomic disputes, and anemic fuel mileage and in order to be seen in an expensive box that can go off road in comfort.

For those who can’t write off their vehicle costs because they don’t own a business the choice is clear; think. What do you really need a SUV for? Is it to tow a boat five times a year? Perhaps renting a vehicle for those times would be more cost efficient. Is it to get around better in the snow? Most every type of smaller SUV and even sedans can do that with ease if you live this side of the Rocky Mountains. Do you need a SUV for space? Minivans are safer, have more interior room, are easier to load, and get better fuel mileage. Don’t create a myth for yourself that SUVs are cool. That time has long passed, just as the need for larger aftermarket rims and tires that can put extra stress on wheel bearings, increase stopping distances, hydroplane easier, are more difficult to gain traction when driven in snow, are prone to heavy damage from curbs, and can reduce fuel mileage.

Clear thinking individuals are dropping the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Trail Blazer and Dodge Durango and Toyota Sequoia because they aren’t efficient or practical. Meanwhile the new crossover SUVs such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, the Mazda CX-7 and even the old Ford Escape are doing well. The reason is simple; they do the job well and more efficiently.

One of the silliest decisions in memory is the selection of the Chevrolet Tahoe as the Green Car of the Year from a committee that includes talk show host Jay Leno. I realize that Leon is a car enthusiast and gets pretty much whatever he wants from vehicle manufacturers, especially General Motors, but where was the family input on this matter? The Tahoe was selected because the hybrid version gets a stated 21-mpg in town driving. Good grief, 21 mpg is the best they could do? Yes, it is much better than the non-hybrid version, but why are these members of the Ron Cogan old boy’s network so determined to push for weighty SUVs and not impressed by such vehicles as the Altima hybrid? The answer is that Cogan and his hand picked group of judges believes that not everyone is interested in fuel-efficient smaller vehicles. Hard to argue, except to note that it is difficult to accept the fact that by giving the Tahoe hybrid this award anything outside of more advertising dollars will be created. Next time this group should consider a family viewpoint and create an evaluation rubric that takes into consideration the cost of a vehicle. The Tahoe hybrid lists for over $50,000, $15,000 more than a base model Tahoe. That certainly sounds like a lot of extra profit for General Motors.

In order to skirt the law vehicle manufactures of large SUVs makes them heavy enough to avoid having to meet fuel economy and tailpipe emissions and safety standards set for passenger cars. Some of the heaviest vehicles are classified as Class 2B and these SUVs and truck are built heavier to avoid having to adding to the corporate fuel economy numbers. Not that this is a problem. BMW and other manufacturers of performance vehicles spend millions of dollars yearly in fines for not meeting this standard. It is a cost of doing business. It might also be a tax write-off meaning that the rest of us are paying for the privilege of letting others drive less efficient cars.

Since many SUV buyers are looking for more usable room a new classification of vehicle has emerged. These are the Chevrolet HHR, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Volvo XC 70, Kia Rondo, and Mazda 5. All of these get good fuel mileage, have exceptional utility, and are easy to maneuver and park. We especially like them as they are well priced. Indeed, most of them start under $20,000 and the most expensive, the Volvo, costing in the mid $30,000 range with tons of safety equipment and room.

Clearly even with the goodness of these vehicles people want that SUV seating position and feeling of safety regardless of the statistics. However, they are obviously getting tired of the high fuel prices that are only going to get dearer. You can count on fuel prices in the $5 range should there be any problems with OPEC either real or imagined. All of the oil that resides in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge would provide less than five percent of the country’s needs for less than five years.

The vehicle manufacturers know there is a growing backlash against such gas-guzzlers as the Toyota Sequoia. And thus crossovers, a SUV body set on a sedan chassis, has emerged and is doing well. There is an estimate 80 crossovers now available to the customer all of them superior to a SUV in terms of fuel mileage because they don’t ride on a truck chassis. Yes, large SUVs are simply trucks with a square body.

People who care about the quality of life are realizing that the large SUVs not only produce over 50 percent more carbon dioxides than a more environmental friendly vehicle, but that this SUV is going to be producing this waste for over a decade. And, as the price of the big rigs drop people who are less able to afford their expensive repairs are going to own them and thus more pollution will result. If you drive a Hummer H2 you are going to pollute the atmosphere nearly as much as two fuel-efficient vehicles.

Crossovers are becoming more exciting to potential buyers as they abandon their large SUVs for the more civility of the more efficient models. The Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX are superior in every way except towing to the Ford Explorer. And General Motors’ Acadia, Outlook, new Vue, and Enclave make ownership of other products such as the Tahoe and Suburban silly unless you tow a great deal. GM has recorded tremendous increases in its crossovers and we think they are underrated. Even the inexpensive Equinox is handy.

What cars not to buy.

There is no question that for those vehicle tested by the government the Porsche Cayenne GTS Mercedes-Benz G 55 AMG and Mercedes-Benz G 500, and the Jeep Cherokee V8 with four wheel drive are fuel fendish and don’t offer impressive utility. These expensive playthings have a carbon footprint that is twice that of the hybrids from Toyota, Lexus, Ford, and General Motors.

But remember that the Hummer and Hummer H2 as well as Lincoln Navigator and Ford Excursion are so heavy they don’t have to be evaluated by the government. Otherwise they would be on this list. So here is the list from the Green Book, which we edited to just, show large SUVs. The Bentley Arnage, Ferrari, Maybach, and Lamborghini are just not sold in enough numbers to be significant. The edited list goes from the best of the worst to the worst of the worst. We also excluded pick-up trucks. Here are more of the worst SUVs for the environment and several, such as the Hummer, lack much interior room as well.

1. Dodge Durango

2. Hummer H2

3. GMC Yukon XL K2500

4. Volkswagen Touareg

5. Chevrolet Suburban K2500

What crossovers to buy?

All of the hybrids, except the Tahoe, do well. Also any four-cylinder powered SUV is easier on the environment and pocketbook. In fact, the non-hybrid Saturn Vue is much more efficient than the Tahoe hybrid and if you really need all wheel drive, the Subaru Forester is terrific. In the wings are a variety of diesel engines that are going to revolutionize gas mileage and towing performances. However, in order to meet the California standards, called the Tier 2 bin 5 emissions standard, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, and even Honda are producing exceptional vehicles. These are going to be 50 state certified, even though the current Environmental Protection Agency believes that they should judge what the standard for vehicle emissions should be regardless of the needs of the state. These diesels still pollute, but not as much as previous models and they can provide up to 60 mpg. Even the two-ton Mercedes E Bluetec diesel easily gets 35 mpg. Hopefully a crossover will soon be available with diesel power, but the reality is that regardless of which four cylinder powered crossover vehicle you select it will be an improvement in terms of the environment and the pocketbook.

Here is our highly recommended list of crossover SUVs based on fuel mileage only. The best all wheel drive version is the Subaru Forester, but if you don’t need that feature there are a lot that can provide great economy.

The most fuel-efficient crossovers are equipped with front wheel drive and either have a four cyclinder engine and/or a hybrid version. The best in order of fuel mileage are:

  1. Ford Escape/ Mazda Tribute hybrid
  2. Toyota Highland hybrid
  3. Lexus 400 hybrid
  4. Saturn Vue hybrid
  5. Jeep Compass/Patriot
  6. Chevrolet HHR
  7. Nissan Rogue
  8. Toyota RAV4
  9. PT Cruiser
  10. Honda CR-V
  11. Subaru Forester (all wheel drive)
  12. Honda Element

Famous Supreme Court decisions

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

Studying these cases and learning about the Constitution are essential parts of most every grade level curriculum. These sites provide a diverse array of teacher friendly lessons that can be used or changed to reflect the appropriate learning level.

Supreme Court decisions that deal with teaching.

A must read for all educators.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/teacher_law.html#2

The Supreme Court site

As dull as can be with sophisticated materials hidden if you use the search engine. If you can’t fall asleep visit this site.

http://www.supremecourtus.gov/

A terrific site with all the major Supreme Court decisions and lesson plans available.

http://www.landmarkcases.org/

A link site to many lessons about the Supreme Court and its decisions

http://score.rims.k12.ca.us/lessons/grades/?u=186

Constitution Day resoruces

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/constitution.html

Evolution and the Law

This resource has many links to this continuing legal discussion.

http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/evo/blevo_law.htm

Religion in Supreme Court decisions

http://www.col-ed.org/cur/sst/sst110.txt

Students’ rights under the law

Very good for getting interest in this subject

http://www.freedomforum.org/packages/first/Curricula/EducationforFreedom/L08main.htm

And

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/october01/supremecourt/

Jim Crow laws and the Constitution

Relates to Civil Rights through the ages.

http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/resources/lessonplans.htm

A very simple interactive site about the Court

http://universe.uiwtx.edu/%7Enewcomb/projects/Venables/court/Intro.htm

Nice site with useful graphics on checks and balances.

http://www.cyberlearning-world.com/lessons/oct6usg.htm

A valuable stie that has a long list of decisins and simple explanations of them. A good place to find cases for a debate.

http://www.law.duke.edu/publiclaw/supremecourtonline/

The Constitution Center

This search engine has a lot of good resources.

http://tinyurl.com/2uj7zh

Supreme Court Historical Society

Some good materials, but too sophisticated for elementary.

http://www.supremecourthistory.org/05_learning/05.html

Thurgood Marshall

http://www.crayola.com/lesson-plans/detail/thurgood-marshall-makes-a-difference-lesson-plan/

And

http://www.tolerance.org/teach/activities/activity.jsp?cid=128

Congress for Kids

A variety of lessons for younger students

http://www.congressforkids.net/games/judicialbranch/2_judicialbranch.htm

Hear actual Supreme Court cases

Very interesting site

http://www.oyez.org/

Find Law

This huge site enables students to find information about all types of cases. Teachers need to use site to find materials. Too difficult for younger students.

http://www.findlaw.com/

African American related cases

http://www.watson.org/%7Elisa/blackhistory/contents.html

Constitutional Rights Foundation

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/constitution-resources.html

Center for Civic Education

http://www.reacheverychild.com/socialstudies/civics/public.html

2008/09 Cadillac STS and CTS: They’re Back

By

The Car Family

General Motors has restricted its press fleet and we thus we can no longer report on the quality of their products.

For more reviews go to http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

Free Mac Applications

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Haskvitz

I have a large selection of Mac Application links here as well as some free sites that offer scholarships and grants

http://www.reacheverychild.com

2008 Gas Versus Hybrid Toyota Highlander Shoot-Out

There is simply no comparison between the 2008 Toyota Highlander and the previous model. The new Highlander is bigger in every dimension from horsepower to interior space without any loss in fuel mileage. The good news is that Toyota infused this SUV with a larger engine, smoother ride and an available third row of seats that is more habitable . The bad news is that the new version is not as nimble and much more isolated from road feel. And, yes, more expensive with the hybrid starting around $34,000 and the gas version priced at $27, 300.

To better provide potential consumers a realistic comparison we drove a 2008 Highlander Hybrid that was a preproduction model. That means that it was close to the real version, but lacked all of the features such as a sophisticated stereo and leather seating. The other vehicle was a loaded Highlander with all wheel drive. The only real exterior differences are the taillights and grill; the interior is identical save for some hybrid monitoring instrumentation.

Both vehicles use the new 270 horsepower, 3,5 liter, V6 engine to good advantage. The hybrid has a continuously variable transmission and the gas powered version a five speed automatic. The extra power from the hybrid’s battery pack makes it much faster and quicker reacting thanks to the electric motors that are rated at 167 horsepower and 247 pound feet of torque. In reality the hybrid Highlander accelerators quicker than a V8 and with a very linear flow of power thanks to the transmission. It would take a Porsche SUV to keep pace, but that wouldn’t be for long as these German heavyweights suck gas nearly twice as fast the Toyota, and premium is highly recommended.

In real life use we seldom got over 23 mpg highway driving at a constant speed in Toyota’s gas version and our best with they hybrid was 25 in city driving. This is a heavy SUV now. The maximum cargo capacity has increased from about 81 cubic feet to over 94 in the 2008 model. There are also a host of features and options from the power lift gate, to Bluetooth, to an auxiliary MP3 input port, to a backup camera, to a key recognition fob. There is also a 5000-pound towing capacity package available.

The hybrid’s gas/electric power train makes 270 horsepower from a 3.3-liter V-6 engine. All hybrids have a continuously variable automatic transmission and four-wheel drive. The hybrid has an EV mode that allows it to travel at slow speeds for about five miles on just the battery. We had a pre-production model that didn’t appear to want to go any distance without the engine running. Indeed, our mileage for this early model was far less than the Hybrid Synergy Drive system’s 31 mpg in the city and 27 mpg government findings. After a few hundred miles of mixed driving the hybrid got about ten percent healthier fuel mileage. You can probably get 24 mpg with the hybrid.

What is most dramatic is the exterior appearance of the Highlander hybrid. No longer the dowdy, nearly invisible SUV, the new model is sharper looking with large slab sides.

The Highlander stands taller on 19-inch rims, has 7.3 inches of ground clearance, and is about 4 inches longer and 3 inches wider. Standard features on the hybrid include leather-trimmed seats, a power rear door, AM/FM/six-disc in-dash CD changer, 19-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps and a third-row bench seat. If you order the optional GPS you can get the highly recommended backup camera monitor with a 3.5-inch screen.


Mom’s view: I must be getting conservative in my old age, but I like the feel of the old Highlander better. It had a handiness that I liked, was very unfussy to park, and was easier to get in and out of. On the other hand, this review is a comparison of the new Highlander hybrid and the non-electric assist model.

My first impression about the hybrid was that it rides quieter and has more features. The hybrid is quite quiet and the steering feel is wighted well. Side winds do affect both models as there are large flat sides on both models without any defense against parking lot dings or wind blasts. The brakes have a supple feel and the ride is plush, not unlike other SUVs in this market segment. The Ford Edge has a crisper feel, the General Motors Acacia a more responsive feel, and the Dodge Durango just feels old. Honda’s Pilot is still a player in this field. Outside of the Highlander none of the competition offers a hybrid, except the smaller Ford/Mercury Escape.

Safety wise the Highlander offers antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, side-impact airbags for the front seats, a knee airbag for the driver, active head restraints and an electronic stability system. A hill-start assist that keeps a vehicle from rolling back on a steep hill and a downhill assist feature that controls the downhill speeds on slick roads are also part of the Highlander’s safety array. Overall, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Highlander its highest ratings, but the passenger side crash rating was not as high.

Since there is an optional third seat side curtain airbags are provided for all three rows of seats. Of vital interest to all SUV buyers is an improved vehicle stability control unit as all SUVs are top heavy and much more likely to roll over. That is why we always recommend a minivan as it is safer, gets better fuel mileage, and is easier to handle. Toyota has done its best to make this a safe vehicle including active headrests for the driver and front passenger with active whiplash protection.

Another valuable feature that I have found difficult to live without is the

Smart Start and Entry keyless access. All you need is to have the key fob with you. The car instantly recognizes the fob, unlocks the door at a touch, and makes starting as simple as pushing the ignition button near your right knee. It’s not longer necessary to search for the key in your purse or pocket.

An advocated option is for the rearview camera because visibility to the rear is very limited. The new side view mirrors are quite good, but the best view is over the sharply descending hood where you can easily judge where the Highlander’s front bumper ends. This is very valuable in parking lots that simply have a white line to delineate the end of one parking space and the start of the next. If you want a quick test on who can drive a vehicle and those who aim their ride just check a parking lot and notice how many SUVs have their noses stuck into the parking space belonging to the vehicle in front of them. Most bad drivers park their vehicles based on where the other car is parking. The good forward visibility in the Highlander makes good parking easier, but the high ridge on the hood does limit the view somewhat.

However, without the rear view camera backing out of any space is a slow procedure.

Toyota has taken a handy Highlander, listened to the input of buyers, and created what they wanted in the form of a larger, more feature laden SUV. The problem with this method is that it always produces a past tense vehicle. What a buyer wants when gas is $2 a gallon is different than when gas is $4. The Highlander is a better vehicle than its predecessor, but the gas mileage should be improved and a rethink about the door arm rests that make it difficult to reach the window switches.

I was not impressed with the largeness of the model. However, I really liked the responsiveness of the hybrid version. Here was a powerful and very fuel friendly full-sized SUV that is exhilarating to drive. I highly recommend you go down to your Toyota dealership and drive both versions and ponder this list beforehand. First, does your driving necessitate the back-up camera? Secondly, are you willing to pay the extra for all wheel drive? Next, do you drive enough to justify the extra cost of the hybrid version and its many extra features? Finally, do you require this large a vehicle? The RAV4 is a terrific SUV that gets excellent fuel mileage, has a good-sized cargo bay, and only the spare tire handing off the rear hatch prevent it from making it the best of its breed and it costs less.

Dad’s view: Much more of a looker, the Highlander is notable for its performance and lack of outside noise. There is little doubt that this SUV has gone through a significant testing program designed to reduce vibration and din. Even the usual source of wind noise, the side view mirror, has been significantly redesigned to smooth out the passing air. These are ample sized mirrors, too. Unlike the horrible mirrors on the Hummer H2 these are both useful and classy.

A much more sophisticated interior greets the customer and has a Lexus-like feel and look. The controls are easy to read, reach, and use. The seats are all comfortable, although those in the optional third row of seating are stiff. Interestingly, the second row of seats are captain’s chairs. This reduces comfortable seating capacity by one, but Toyota’s Center Stow seat can be used as a third seat. The captain’s chairs even have a track so that they can be slid forward to allow third row occupants more foot room.

If you need the extra seating the third row provides on a regular basis get the Toyota Sienna, which is being offered at handsome prices. In the Highlander this flat, two-person bench is adequate, but mainly for children. It is easy to raise or lower using levers that are simple to use.

One of the highlights of the interior is a concave mirror mounted on the ceiling of the Highlander so that the driver can quickly keep track of what is occurring in the rear seats.

Driving both the Highlander gas and hybrid versions of the Highlander one is struck by how familiar they feel. Here is truly the generic SUV. The ride is absorbent and the interior space more than generous. Even with 55 more horsepower than the previous model, the Highlander’s new 270 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 is smoother than potent, although the fuel economy is rated about 19 mpg; we managed to get 20 mpg for an all wheel drive version. The electronically controlled five-speed transmission is the only one available whether or not you order the front-wheel drive or a full-time 4-wheel drive version.

Young working woman’s view: The pricing on the Highlander is quite dramatic. The base model starts around $27,500 and the loaded Hybrid Limited all wheel drive model is priced over $40,000. In between there is a Sport Model and a Limited. These are all minor issues as the basics of the Highlander are essentially the same. It has a powerful engine, an abundance of room, and a need to order options to make it handy for a woman. Those options start with the power lift gate. Without it the tailgate is heavy to pull down and difficult to reach if you are less than 5’3”. The back up camera is a must and you need the GPS option to see it as without you have just a tiny screen as a monitor. If you order the GPS you must also order the JBL audio upgrade. The 19-inch rims and tires offer superior riding and handling and are also options. In other words, the Highlander has crept into Lexus RX territory in terms of pricing. I have known the Lexus RX and the Highlander is no Lexus. Give me more spark and a more loveable interior.

College going male’s view: Too big, too bland, and expensive are my feelings. The RAV4 is much more tidy, is more fun to drive, and is easy to cut through traffic in. In other words, the Highlander continues to be a family oriented SUV for those who like to blend in and can’t bare the fact that the Sienna is superior for family purposes. On the plus side is that this is a much-improved Highlander. The dash is vastly improved, the cupholders very handy, and the instrument readouts clear and attractive. The seats are first rate and the turning radius short enough to make mall parking easy. As for hybrid versus gas, I would go with the hybrid. For the extra money you are going to get a very fast SUV that gets good fuel mileage for what it is, especially in commuting situations. I think you’ll get the extra money you have to pay for the hybrid back at resale, too.

Family conference: If you don’t need the extra room and don’t mind the bland styling get a deal on a 2007 model. However, there is a great deal of improvement in the 2008 models. As for ordering the more loaded hybrid version, it is worth it if you need those extra features. The small improvement in fuel mileage isn’t that great and you have to be aware of additional maintenance costs. Our recommendation is stay with the base version, but if you don’t need the third row of seats the RAV 4 is much more nimble, very fuel efficient, and quicker on its feet. The RAV 4 and the Subaru Forester are good vehicles in the smaller crossover category.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Real life gas mileage about various hybrids

http://www.greenhybrid.com/compare/mileage/honda-civicii.html

Live Healthier: Buy a Safer Vehicle

The Car Family

For more vehicle reviews go to

http://www.motorists.org/carfamily/

For the website of all vehicle manufacturers go to

http://www.reacheverychild.com/business/index.html

Want to live longer? Don’t buy a large SUV or pick-up truck or used vehicle without a full compliment of safety features. Buy a new family sedan which weighs at least 3000 pounds. You don’t have to shy away from high performance machinery, but at the very least take a professional driving course with it. Finally, do your homework. In other words, this article could be the most important reading you do short of a pre-nuptial agreement or that Nigerian email offering to share the wealth.

The crash statistics are overwhelming. In 2005 there were nearly 45,000 people killed in vehicle accidents or about one every 12 minutes in 2005. The majority of these accidents occurred within ten miles of the home and driver negligence was the cause. The most dangerous accident is a side impact one, which is the most common cause of injury. Side airbags are a must. You might try to lobby for all vehicles to have bumpers the same height so in side crashes the bumper does not override the steel beams in the door. Data reveals that driving while using a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk so get a hands free unit. In addition, remember that large Hummers, Lincoln Navigators, and Ford Excursions all weigh over 6000 pounds and are illegal to drive on many residential streets and some older highways so owning one could be safer because they might not legally be able to leave the owner’s garage.

So what is the safest vehicle? There are four factors to consider. First, understand that the larger the vehicle that more difficult it is to control. Large SUVs and pick-up trucks may be safer in an accident with a smaller vehicle, but are much more likely to be involved in a single vehicle accident due to loss of control. SUVs and pickups have more than double the chance of rolling over, according to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, and have a higher fatality rate than cars in the same weight category. While large SUVs and pickups may be at an advantage in multi-vehicle accidents, they are involved in over 40 percent of all fatal single vehicle accidents. Putting an inexperienced driver in large SUV is an act of faith rather than logic.

Next, do your homework. There are crash test scores generated by the government and insurance industry that must be checked and are readily available online. Following that buy every safety related option. Saab and Volvos, for example, come with whiplash protection systems. Cadillac, for one, offers lane departure warnings and a system that warns the driver when a vehicle is in the vehicle’s blind spot. Mercedes and others offer knee airbags and several manufacturers offer side air bags for rear passengers. And make certain you order the electronic stability control that helps prevent rollovers.

Finally, look for the vehicle’s ability to avoid accidents. Good handling, braking, and visibility are vital. The latter should not be neglected as the rise in ownership of SUVs has resulted in over 2400 cases of children being run over or backed over.

With all that in mind here is a list of vehicles that offer excellent safety features, have good crash scores and good handling. Be advised that not all the 2007 vehicles have been evaluated and so this data is based on earlier models. Our recommendation for the “healthiest” cars in the large car category are the Acura RL Audi A6, Buick Lucerne, Chrysler 300 C/Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Lexus ES 300, Lincoln Town Car and LS, and the Volvo S80, wagons and convertibles. The Lexus would be our choice here, but the Ford is a very good family vehicle. The Volvo wagons are ideal replacements for SUVs and are loaded with safety features.

For midsized cars the Audi again is a good choice as well as the Acura TL, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Element, Subaru Legacy and the underrated Saab 9-3. The Saab convertible is as safe a drop top as they make. Subaru’s Impreza is also a good small car. Subaru’s Forester and Honda’s CR-V were also cited. The Volkswagen Passat, Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima also had high scores. Of these we like the Saab best with its perky performance and handling, but the gas mileage and roomy interior of the 2008 Accord make it attractive and the Malibu is a bargain.

Minivans from Honda, Kia, Toyota, Mazda, and Hyundai have earned top honors and there are a lot of midsized SUVs to consider. Those from Acura, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Mercedes, Saturn, Subaru, Toyota, and Volvo are rated well. We always like the way the small BMW X3 handles, but the new Saturn and Ford Edge are excellent values and Kia minvan is a bargain. The Lexus RX would be the top pick in the SUV category.

Other vehicles that are worth a look are the Lexus IS, Volkswagen Jetta, Passat, and Rabbit/Golf, and the Honda Civic. The Honda is good, but if you can afford the IS go for it. On the other hand, we are thinking of ordering the Jetta diesel wagon for our fleet next year.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published its list of death rates by vehicles collected over four years. The safest were the Chevrolet Astro, Infiniti G35, BMW 7 Series, Toyota 4Runner, Audi A4, Mercedes E and M-Class, Toyota Highlander, Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Lexus ES 330, Lexus RX 330, Toyota Sequoia, Honda Pilot, and BMW X5. The highest death rates were recorded for those in a Chevrolet Blazer, Acura RSX, Nissan 350Z, Kia Spectra, Pontiac Sunfire, Kia Rio, Chevrolet Cavalier, and Mitsubishi Eclipse, among others. Note that all the latter models have been replaced or redone since this data was published.

Family conference: The top choices from The Car Family in selecting a safe family car would be the small Saab, large Volvo sedan and wagon, BMW, Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru, Lexus RX and ES, Audi sedans, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry. We have high hopes that the new Volkswagens will soon be added to this mix.

A healthier life style could be as simple as exercising your credit line.

Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety

http://www.iihs.org/

National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration

http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/

Pearl Harbor Day lessons and links

It is always a great lesson about government and about the dangers of underestimating an enemy as well caring about others in these lessons about Pearl Harbor.

http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/pearl_harbor.html