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January 31, 2005

Miller: States Launch SUV Education Program

$27 million public education campaign is aimed at preventing deadly roll-overs. It includes a new "mascot" and especially challenges young men to "master" their SUVs.

(New York, NY)  Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said today that all fifty states have joined forces to launch a $27-million, year-long education campaign to prevent deadly roll-over crashes of SUVs, or sport-utility vehicles. The campaign is funded by an earlier settlement with Ford Motor Co.

"SUVs are bigger, higher and heavier than cars," Miller said. "They are more prone to roll over because they have a higher center of gravity that makes them more top-heavy. Just about once every hour, someone in the U.S. is killed in an SUV crash, usually in a roll-over, and often in a single-car crash," he said.

"But a huge number of SUV roll-over deaths can be prevented - if drivers handle their SUVs right," he said. "That's the mission of our campaign. We will try to drive home several key tips that make the difference between life and death: Don't overload, don't speed, try to avoid sudden maneuvers, check your tire pressure each month, and always wear seat belts."

Miller said the education campaign targets young men, who may be most vulnerable -- and most difficult to reach. Young male drivers have the highest incidence of SUV roll-overs. "We will challenge drivers to master their SUV."

Miller said the SUV Safety Campaign is funded by a December 2002 settlement with Ford Motor Company, which resolved state lawsuits alleging that Ford's marketing practices misled consumers on how to drive, load and maintain Ford Explorers. In the settlement, Ford agreed to fund the $27-million consumer campaign on SUV safety.

"SUVs can give you a sense of invincibility," said David Champion, senior director, Auto Test Department, Consumer Reports, "but if you lose control they become very dangerous, due to their weight and high center of gravity."

Miller said: "We've learned that almost five in 10 Americans do not know that overloading an SUV increases the risk of roll-overs. And more than four in 10 think they are safer in an SUV than in a regular car. That may be true in some situations, but roll-overs are a deadly threat."

Miller, who has been a leader both in the earlier litigation against Ford and fashioning the new education project, said the SUV Safety Campaign will have several components:

  • "ESUVEE" is a new mascot created for the campaign. "ESUVEE" was unveiled for the first time Monday morning at the Safety Campaign kick-off at New York City's Central Park Zoo. "ESUVEE" is a 10-foot tall 16-foot long animatronic (moving) "creature" that looks a little like a huge Woolly Mammoth but with SUV face features like headlights and grill. (Go to to see the animated version of the creature.)
  • The "ESUVEE" creature will be used in strong animation for TV and movie-house ads, and in print ads, on-line ads, and billboards. The huge mascot creature also will appear at events nationwide - most likely including the Iowa State Fair in August.
  •, the SUV Safety Campaign web site, is a source of tips and information about safe operation and maintenance of SUVs. Ads will lead viewers to the web site.

Miller said the Campaign especially targets younger male drivers because drivers age 16-24 account for about one-quarter of SUV crashes, and they are about 68 percent more likely to roll over than older drivers. SUVs now account for about one in four US vehicles.

"The thrust of this campaign is simple," Miller said. "We want people to realize that driving SUVs like ordinary cars invites disaster. We are trying to change driver behavior and driver understanding," he said.

"We recognize that people find SUVs to be exciting and powerful, but SUVs require special care and driving habits, too. Many deadly crashes can be prevented, if drivers follow the basic tips to avoid speeding, avoid sudden maneuvers, avoid overloading, check tire pressure often, and always wear seat-belts."

All fifty states are participating in the safety campaign, plus Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia. The states selected an advertising agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty Limited, to execute the campaign. Peppercom, Inc. was hired to handle public relations and promotions. Bill Roach of the Iowa Attorney General's Office was a leader in creating the safety education campaign.

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