Dumbest Post of the Year: And the Winner Is ...

MT Figure 8

As you might imagine, we read a lot of stories every year. Between the various journals, periodicals, press releases, websites, newspapers and enthusiast magazines, sometimes it seems like a miracle we have time to do anything else. 

But every so often, we read a piece that so vividly misses the mark and completely misunderstands what the main point should have been that we have to stop and bask in its glory.

We have to say, at this point, this award usually goes to some TV or newspaper organization that can't afford to hire anyone on staff that knows the difference between ring gear and GVWR, but what is so odd about this year's winner is that it comes from a source who should know better: Motor Trend magazine. (We should note that we have no way of knowing if this story will show up in the magazine; we found this on Motor Trend's website.) 

To be honest, the story itself, at least from the title, seems to have merit: "The 10 Most Dynamically Challenged Vehicles of 2011." It's always good to know what vehicles live up to their promises, and if the experts at Motor Trend — who by all accounts seem to be doing the best job of testing the most new vehicles every year — are interested in calling these vehicles out, it seems like it might be a worthy story to look at. I was wrong. 

I should also note here that I'm not commenting on the story's accuracy. These are the most dynamically challenged vehicles MT tested over the last 12 months as recorded from its unique Figure-8 testing procedures. The problem comes when you ask of what use is this information? The asnwer looks to be not at all. At least, not as it's presented. 

Not only is there no context provided, but in each case, the vehicles are being rated in a realm that neither the design engineers or the potential buyers would care much about. I get the idea that an enthusiast magazine, one that prides itself on its testing numbers and thoroughness, would want to put every vehicle it track-tests through the same critical testing procedures, but at some point you have to ask of what use is the data and what is it suppose to communicate, especially when all the tested vehicles are so incredibly different from one another?

To judge a heavy-duty pickup truck on the same basis, with the same testing procedures, as a full-electric microcar or performance sports car, at some point, doesn't just become silly, it becomes irresponsible, especially if you want to call yourself the expert about all things automotive. I'm not arguing with the data collected here, just the way in which it's being displayed and represented, and what that resulting data is supposed to imply.

The folks at MT should know better than anyone how important context and perspective can be. (It does, after all, have separate awards for car, sport-utility and truck of the year.) Yet, here they are, providing neither in this story and making themselves, and the vehicles they've tested (but mostly themselves), look silly.

It does make one wonder why there aren't other top ten posts on their site about sports cars called, "The Ten Most Payload Challenged Vehicles of 2011" or "The Most Cargo Incapable Vehicles of the Year" with a bunch of two-seater Porsches and BMWs and Audis splayed all over the photo gallery. Judging vehicles for what they are makes sense. Judging vehicles for what they are not, just looks stupid.  

If MT wants to be the best-handling testers and drivers in the automotive universe, I will fight to the death for its right to do so. But if it wants to evaluate vehicles that have their primary strengths and design parameters far outside their abilities to judge and understand what they are, then I say either get smart about your subject or stop pretending to know what you're doing.  

I'm not sure exactly what we're supposed to learn from the story when vehicles are judged in such a singularly prejudiced fashion. Maybe that would have been a good question to ask before the story was assigned or written. Some might argue all data is important and, for the most part, I would agree, but there is also a responsibility for those who should know better to offer some kind of explanation in what that data might mean or possibly convey.

To no one's surprise, Motor Trend's 10 Most Dynamically Challenged Vehicles of 2011 — which, oddly, has 18 vehicles in the list — has five full-size pickups, four SUVs, three minivans, two commercial vans (both NVs) and four compact cars (three of which are hybrid or full electric). These are all vehicles designed, marketed and intended for buyers that care very little (if at all) about the performance handling characteristics around a completely subjective, miniature figure-8 course. At no point in the story are any segment comparisons made or references to their most direct competitors. All the numbers are left floating in midair without any connection to reality.

Here's some constructive advice: At least offer comparable numbers and values for similar vehicles. It might be fun to know which is the fastest or most dynamically supreme of all vehicles sold in the U.S., but you might be giving yourself too much credit if you think those of us out here in the real world care about seeing performance handling tests between vehicles that can do work (or even get much better fuel economy) with those that can't.


Yea, I read that article Full size pickups arn't going to handle like a sports car but then again I think handling and fun to drive can play a part. I bought my Titan because it is actually fun to drive around a twisty road whereas the F-150 drives like a Town Car, its quit and rides good in a straight line. I need a truck to pull around my boat and its my only vehicle, if it can put a little fun in it, then I'll take it.

yea well said,while were at it why dont we just compair peterbuilt semi's to smart cars

Hey looks like Chevy won Motor Trend's 10 Most Dynamically Challenged Vehicles of 2011. Keep up the good work Chevy

I have to agree 100%. What an exercise in futility. Even Motor Trend shot themselves in the foot with the sentance "
These vehicles serve their intended purpose well enough; just keep them off the figure eight and skidpad."
If you are bright enough to make that comment, then why the f--k do the test in the first place?

Hmmm, no test of the Tacoma X-Runner?

Too afraid of the 0.96g lateral grip STOCK!!!

The X-Runner is a pickup that can beat the crap out of most sports cars in cornering...

@Mark Williams . What comes to mind with the article is "Accident Avoidance". I think that aspect is relevant. You would hate to be in any vehicle that does not respond to your input in an emergency situation. That is the only reason you would test a pickup on slalom course.

"It does make one wonder why there aren't other top ten posts on their site about sports cars called, "The Ten Most Payload Challenged Vehicles of 2011" or "The Most Cargo Incapable Vehicles of the Year" with a bunch of two-seater Porsches and BMWs and Audis splayed all over the photo gallery."

...... which is why car rags do such a lousy job of testing trucks and why I come here- PUTC Shootout tests are the best bar none. Trucks are tested like an owner might actually use them.

"The Most Cargo Incapable Vehicles of the Year" reminds me of the time when I tried to use my beater (paid $35 for it) 1968 Plymouth Fury like a truck years ago. Came across some free firewood, couldn't get a hold of my two brothers who had pickups so I said what the heck. Filled the truck, backseat, and some on the passenger side front with firewood. Almost made it to the house when the driver's side torsion bar twisted out of the frame leaving it with a decided NASCAR list to the left. Using the Fury like a truck made about as much sense as Motor Trend treating trucks like cars. Back then I didn't know much better but Motor Trend should .....

@Oxi - 0.96g? SHOW US SOME PROOF!

@ oxi - they most likely tested the X-runner. Were you expecting it to be on the "worse handling" list?

I like Good Car Bad Car's Best 12 and Worse 8. They base their commentary more on "X factors" combined with price and their target audience and/or purpose. They rated the F150 EB 4x4, Suburban, and Jeep Wrangler in their Top 12.

This is exactly why; awarding the Chevrolet Silverado as the Motor Trend Truck Of The Year (a year or two ago), does not hold any merritt. Motor Trend is a car magazine and not a truck magazine.

@ oxi

that truck would NEVER be on a worst handling list being that it does in fact out corner most sports cars

@ everyone

hmmm I thought the F-series were supposed to the best at everything............................... lol sorry i just couldnt resist. :)

@Buy American Or Say Bye To America
Im glad you feel that way so we can take this years award away from the F-Series.

Why didn't MotorTrend hook up a 10,000# tandem axle trailer to a Toyota Prius and test its 1/4 mile time and 60-0mph stopping distance?

I read a terrible MotorTrend review of the 2012 Explorer Ecoboost in which they just complained about how it didn't have enough acceleration. They didn't bother to applaud a full-size SUV for achieving 20/28mpg. THAT is what the Ecoboost Explorer was built for: a people/cargo hauler that gets good gas mileage, not a 1/4 mile drag car! What a bunch of idiots at MotorTrend!

No a Prius won't pull a 10K trailer, but those that say handling on a truck doesn't matter are flat wrong. No a truck won't come close to keeping up with Corvette in the in the slolum test but people drive these things as every day vehicles and they need to be livable, also they need to be able to keep a certain standard for the accident avoidance test.

"Im glad you feel that way so we can take this years award away from the F-Series." -5.3L LOL

I only meant the Chevrolet award is meaningless. The 2011 Ford F-150 truly does deserve the; Motor Trend Truck Of The Year, award because it is the bestest rootin' tootin' pickup!

"This is exactly why; awarding the Chevrolet Silverado as the Motor Trend Truck Of The Year (a year or two ago), does not hold any merritt. Motor Trend is a car magazine and not a truck magazine." This is posted by Buy American Or Say Bye To America! |

OH? So does that mean the 2012 Motor Trend Truck of the Year awarded to the 2012 Ford F-150 mean nothing because like you said, "Motor Trend is a car magazine and not a truck magazine right? This has to be voted the most ignorant statement I have heard in a long time. Motor Trend does cars and trucks you ignorant one.

And for the record, it was the 2011 Silverado HD voted Motor Trends Truck of The Year. I guess it only means something if ford wins it right Buy American???

I have finally wised up about Ford, and I can honestly say that they do not deserve this years Motor Trend truck of the year award. Kudos to Motor Trend for awarding the Silverado HD the award in 2011. This is actually a truck that can work unlike the Ego Boost F-150. I have to thank Bob for opening my eyes. It's never too late to wake up and smell the coffee!

I would of thought the Dumbest Post of the Year Award would of been a contest between Frank, Bob, Buy American, and Oxi.
Bob wins a closely fought battle.
Oxi comes in 2nd (Tie for first if you count compact trucks as a separate class).

motor trends awards, every year, should be subject to each readers own interpretation. I would never buy a vehicle just because they say it's good, and I'd never discount a vehicle just because they chose it. chevy 2500 rocks, f-150 rocks, motor trend sucks.



Stock X-Runner: Handling Lateral grip (200-ft skidpad): 0.97g

No production pickup has ever been that good in lateral grip!

@Mark Williams, I agree that this piece misses any point altogether, however, I don't think there is a need to blast your contemporaries on it. You're not making any friends and beware they begin to get critical of you. I doubt that reputation is easy to come by in your business.

@oxi - the x-runner has a V6. you would think that the lighter 4 banger would be vastly superior in every way. I'd take a SRT-10 over a wheezy Taco any day. The SRT did 0.81 lateral G. The SRT-10 set a truck speed record at 154.587 mph.The SRT-10 is heavier cause it is made with metal instead of Taco spec pressed beer cans.

http://www.autoblog.com/2011/12/29/toyota-tops-recall-list-again-in-2011-overall-number-of-u-s-re/ <-------- I just couldn't Resist hemi lol :)

Mark Williams, you are surprised the pickups had the worst lateral grip of the vehicles MT tested during 2011?

MT posted that article as a response to reader’s inquiries, after they posted an article about which vehicles had the best. Guess what, MT delivered what the readers wanted. Something PUTC hasn’t done since Mike left. (I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a request for a 2012 Ram 2500HD Hemi test with the new 6 speed, with no response from PUTC)

I guess you can post what you want, but don't criticize a company that actually tests vehicles, and then posts what its readers want them to. The last time PUTC did anything worth reading was when Mike was still here. Since you have taken over, this place has become absolute $hit, and is often one of the LAST places on the web to post information about pickups, IF IT GETS POSTED AT ALL!

You can act like you are better then MT, but in all honesty, MT (a site about auto enthusiasts) posts: more, accurate, and entertaining; pickup information in a single month, then you did since you have taken over.

PUTC is now a joke, and won't be around much longer with you in charge.

Go FU@K Yourself

We all know that any pickup is not going to handle like a sports car or have Prius efficiency. The beauty of a truck is the utility and practicality and is more fully appreciated by the truck owner. How many of us truck owners have tried to live without a pickup and discovered you just cannot.

@PF Expo- Did you not read the article? Nobody is surprised that trucks and SUVs did the worst in MT test. In fact, it should have been expected, to the point that the test was pointless. As has been said, it makes as much sense as testing a bunch of sports cars hauling capabilities. Also you say that MT's readers asked for such a test? Ok then, why? Trucks arent designed with this king of performance in mind so why include them in the first place? I am having a hard time putting what I want to say in the concise words here but the point I am trying to get across is that it was, well, pointless.

@Oxi - interesting link. I've never seen an x-runner. Could you go down to your local Toyota dealer and pick one up? Or were they a limited run like the SVT lightning?

@buy american - I'm afraid Michigan Bob has you there. You can't pick and choose which results you will accept and which you won't. Besides, the D'max won in the PUTC shootouts too so if you try to discount Motor Trend you will be discounting PUTC too.

Have to agree that article makes no sense, has no relationship to the real world. We are fulltime rv'ers towing almost 16,000 pounds of fifthwheel as we see this beautiful country. An electric car makes no sense for us. A sports car doesn't, either. Anything short of a HD pickup just doesn't cut it.

Of all these comments, I only noticed one who understands both articles. Those who say that truck owners will only use their truck as a truck totally ignore the people who use their trucks as a car--including themselves.

It is true, a truck isn't meant to handle like a sports car, but at the same time a truck needs to handle emergency maneuvers competently, if not spectacularly. It needs to be able to get out of its own way--or at least out of the path of that out-of-control idiot careening across the median strip towards it. Not every crash will be your fault; it is your fault if you can't even try to avoid it--you've picked the wrong vehicle.

Ok, so that figure-eight dynamics track is extreme and I quite agree that the article developed from it lacks context, but it does point out that certain vehicles are likely more at risk in an emergency situation than others.


What happened before 2009 on recalls?

Why are the big 3 the leaders in so many years when it comes to recalls throughout the 80's, 90's and 00's?

I like to see things on a strategic level and that means over 20-30 years and Toyota is very consistent over that span of years. Typical sheep, judging only 1 year or 2...

No wonder Toyota has the highest resale value as a brand than any other auto make! Look 20-30 years bud...


I beat a Ford SVT Lightening with my little V6 Tacoma X-Runner on a 1/3 mile Nascar track on raw time!

So a V10 Ram would reap the same fate! Why?

Because they are too tall in the air. Thier designers spent too much focus on straight line speeds rather then handling like the X-Runner that uses x-braces underneath unlike the others that lack this and their frames act like a noodle when cornering!

I would like to see a link about the Ram claim of .81g please or are you making it up as usual?

The 2nd best pickup behind the 0.97g Tacoma was the GMC Cyclone at 0.81g, so I doubt a stock Ram can even get close to that!

Who are you? You do not seem very bright!


The X-Runner is a limited production pickup like 3,500/year...

I had to order mine after I test drove one at another dealer...

@oxi - is it still in production?

Now oxi, would you rather have another tacoma, or a mint GMC syclone? it's nostalgia vs brand loyalty! lol


You said...

''No a Prius won't pull a 10K trailer, but those that say handling on a truck doesn't matter are flat wrong. No a truck won't come close to keeping up with Corvette in the in the slolum test but people drive these things as every day vehicles and they need to be livable, also they need to be able to keep a certain standard for the accident avoidance test.''

Though I agree...Even in pickups handling has its place...No one is going to take their F-150/Ram/Silverado...etc...etc, and expect to conquer nurburgring in record time with it, A pickup should still be able to manage itsself well in emergencey manuvers.

Now speaking from the standpoint of someone who has driven trucks my whole life, I will say that if the DRIVER is competent than handling a 5500lb+ 4X4 pickup in an emergency situation shouldn't be that hard. I have had to do it several times in my years of driving, many times in older trucks that didn't have electronic stabilty control or things like that which take some of the strain off of th driver.

The reason this article is being flamed by pretty much everyone though, is because (And I'm stating the obvious here) they tested 4X4 pickups, Cargo Vans, Hybrids, Mini Vans and Sports Cars all in the same context. It almost seems like Motortrend went out of their way to make anything that isn't a Sports car look bad.

Basically by subjecting ALL of these vehicles to tests that only a Sports car could excelle at was a stupid mistake on their behalf.

It would have been just as ridiculious had they hooked all of the sports cars up to trailers and tested which one towed the best.

"@buy american - I'm afraid Michigan Bob has you there. You can't pick and choose which results you will accept and which you won't. Besides, the D'max won in the PUTC shootouts too so if you try to discount Motor Trend you will be discounting PUTC too." -toycrusher84

I was just getting a feel for what it is like to troll. Trying to push the buttons of the General Motors psychos, is all.

PF Expo-

You are way out of line, sir.

Mr. Mark Williams has been doing a fine job in the short time that he has been here. How can you, or anyone else, expect a new person (Mark Williams) to come right in and continue with the same level of production as a person that had been doing this job for over ten years or so, in just the few months that he has been here? It takes time for a new person to develop a system/routine in a new position. Not to mention this new person has to start building-up relationships with; manufacturers, builders, venues, etc. that the previous guy had going.

Cut the guy some slack, dude!

P.S.- Keep up the great work, Mr. Mark Williams!!!

MotorTrend would be smart to normalize the figure 8 to UTQG treadwear number, and tire pressure, and tire width. (maybe height of center of mass, and track width too)

If they did that, then pickups wouldn't seam so bad.

Vulpine - I disagree. A savvy driver will know that a pickup will handle differently than a van or a sports car. Problem is many drivers aren't savvy. This kind of test will do little to inform or educate those types of people. I'm not going to make my purchace decision based on one test. Top Gear USA ran a Hennessy VelociRaptor on their track in 4x4 with nannies off and it was within the performance realm of many of the cars they tested. Top Gear UK challenged Sabine Schmidt to run a Ford Transit Van around the Nurburgring because she joked that she could beat one of the Top Gear hosts time running a Jaguar. She was within a few seconds of the Jag.
I'm not going to buy a Raptor or a Transit van becuase a pro can keep up to cars. I'm not going to avoid buying a certain pickup or van because it did poorly on a figure 8. Is MotorTrend going to test class 8 tractors because people might ask how they would do on a track?
If they did it more tongue in cheek like Top Gear it would be worth it for entertainment value but nothing else.

@oxi - here are the links you want.
This link says 0.92
For some strange reason, I cannot find the link fior the 0.81 g but this link gives better numbers. The regular cab generated .86 g of grip on a 300 ft skidpad,while the Quad Cab generated .83 g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_Ram_SRT-10#cite_note-caranddriver2-4

@Oxi: Ok, so the tires that come stock on those X-Runners are purpose built road race kinda tires, say if you took it easy and didn't play, you would not get 10,000 miles on those. How high does it sit? What's the payload? Can it pull a trailer? Don't worry, Cyclone aint made for loads or pulling either. Fact is, it is simply a PURPOSE BUILT road race truck, not made to do any work, barely streetable. (Kinda like another Tacoma that you keep mentioning.) I guess it's well suited for this, as it's frame is made alot lighter then some other trucks -read, not made for payload-If Ram, Ford, Chevy wanted to they could build a truck to compete, however Ford and Ram would have to start with full sizes, a slight loss. Then they would would have to make them toys, not very practical, unless you buy just to race. Now that you bring up handling, and I will say most trucks are suffient, I will bring up acceleration. Becuase it's often overrated on full size trucks. A MID 14 quarter mile with a blower?? That's it?? All that work and it can't get in the 13s or better?? My 1970 Dart Swinger 340 4 barrel 4 speed stock accept for some modern streetable 60 series 14" tires will run that! You paid WHAT? For a purpose built truck? Does SCCA have their own X-Runner class? If I was gonna road race, I wouldn't put all my money into that so I can say I have a new truck to race. I can mod a Ram 1500 and beat it in a big hurry! Now, go hook up a trailer to it. Oh wait, you don't use those.

I was looking at Motor Trend's best Driver's cars for 2011. I assume these would be the 11 Least Dynamically Challenged Vehicles of 2011."
07. AUDI R8 GT
04. Porsche CAYMAN R
03. PORSCHE 911 GT3 RS
Odd that prices were not posted.
The BMW 1 series is probably the only one that I'd consider driving in the winter time (Northern Canada not Southern USA). Most are 2 seat cars, and most start at the price of a fully loaded HD diesel pickup. You could buy your own pickup fleet for the price of some of these cars. (Ferrari 458 Italia - $225,325 US)
Lets take all of these vehicles off of a perfectly dry and reasonably smooth race track.
Winter (defined as lots of snow and ice) - BMW 1 series maybe.
Smooth gravel roads - BMW 1 series maybe.
Rough gravel roads - no.
Trails and fire roads - no.
Across the pasture - no.
offroad - no.
Take the kids - no (could be a positve)
Take the dogs - no.
Take the wife - yes (but most of us couldn't afford to take her anywhere if we bought one of these cars).

I'm surprized that the SRT - 10 can generate the numbers posted.
I'd have to agree with TRXTom.
Why buy a purpose built road truck when any good sports car, most muscle cars, and virtually any good rider on a 600cc or larger sport bike would kill a pickup regardless of how good it is.
Ford and Ram had the right idea with the PowerWagon and Raptor. Build a truck tha has lost a small amount of cargo capacity but can perform extremely well in an environment where only a select few products can come close or beat them stock. (Operative word is stock).
The only machines that might be able to run with a Raptor in the desert would be a performance side by side ie. RZR, a performance quad ie, Raptor, and most cross country dirt bikes ie. KTM 500/530 EXC.
You get my drift. (or is that another reference to their figure 8 ?)

I thought this was going to be about some of the retarded comments people make about the stories PUTC posts...

Mike was great, but Mark Williams may be a little better. He seems more hardcore about pickup trucks and I like that. I don't know what he drives, but I would Mark would dump a pickup truck to drive a VW car? I never understood why the king of pickup trucks, Mike Levine, chose a VW car to use as a daily driver. Yes, he test drove pickup trucks every week, but what he chose to drive personally was a car. Why?

Mike Levine is getting back into the game by buying a new Raptor and F100.

Mike Levine wins again!

@Lou -- Are you really trying to say that every driver is a "savvy driver"? Think about what you, yourself said in your references to Top Gear US and Top Gear UK. Yes, the Ford Raptor did well, driven by a professional driver and still coming in near the bottom of their list by the end of the season. The Ford Transit at the Nurbergring also was by no means a factory stock model for Top Gear UK--simply put a 4-cylinder engine isn't going to come close to a V-12 unless that V-12 is driven by an amateur (which the Top Gear hosts all are, even if they are better trained and more experienced than most.)

No, all you have to do is watch those drivers around you every time you're on the road and you'll soon see just how bad the average driver is. It seems like, at least where I live, the ones driving trucks are among the worst of the lot, treating them like racers and drag-racing them from light to light on public highways. And you wouldn't believe the number of smokers I see (no, I don't mean the diesels, but they tend to smoke a lot too, here.) Oil tracks on the roads from blown engines--more often ending at a truck on the shoulder rather than one of the nearly-ubiquitous street-racing cars. These guys think they're 'car savvy', yet prove by their actions and results that they're no better than a hack.

I have no fault with a driver getting skid-pad practice in a parking lot with a couple inches of snow and ice on the ground--honestly, such should be available for all drivers year-round. People really do need to learn how their vehicle will handle at the extremes of its performance. Doing so on heavily trafficked streets and highways is simply dangerous to themselves and everyone around them.

I stand by what I said, that trucks on average simply can't perform as well as cars under the same circumstances--all drivers being equal. Not all cars are equal either, as the article clearly stated. In any circumstance, the skill of the driver makes the difference in how the vehicle performs. But you can't expect one type of vehicle to perform the same as a completely different type under equal conditions.

@Vulpine - I did not say all drivers are savvy. I added "Problem is many drivers aren't savvy". Yes, a car will handle better than a truck on a paved road, but a good driver will take that into consideration. True, not all drivers are good drivers, an idiot is an idiot regardless of what they drive. I drove as a paramedic for 23 years. You can drive a large vehicle quickly and safely. I've seen more MVC's with police cars than ambulances or fire trucks.
You are thinking of Top Gear UK versus Top Gear Australia where they had a heavily modified Transit van drag racing a Maloo. I'm talking about Sabine Schmidt in a stock Transit van.
You seemed to miss my point about Top Gear with the Raptor or Transit van. They did their tests as entertainment not fact. They also did their tests with pros. ie. the Stig and Sabine Schmidt.
I don't expect a truck, or car, or van, or SUV or any vehicle to handle the same in a situation. I do know the differences and drive accordingly. A figure 8 or a skid pad test isn't going to sway my purchase decisions unless I'm looking for a sports car. If I applied your logic, I'd own a Ferrari not an F150, and Sienna.

Heh. @Lou: I own neither a Ferrari nor an F150/pickup truck--I own a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and I will agree with everything you say in this rebuttal. Perhaps I misunderstood part of your statement in the earlier.

As you so well point out, however; Idiots are idiots, no matter what they drive. I'll admit to having my share of accidents as a teenager and young adult, but the last collision in which I was involved was caused by an impatient driver taking a highway crossing despite being unable to see past opposing cars in their turn lane more than 20 years ago. I didn't even see her until she was entering my lane at a signaled intersection. Maybe if I'd been driving a truck (or my Jeep) I'd have seen her and braked sooner--able to look over the waiting vehicles--but then again, at least some of those vehicles were pickups as well, and she was driving a small Toyota car.

Whichever vehicle you're in, you need to drive within the abilities of the vehicle and the limitations and conditions of traffic. Bigger vehicles are naturally easier to see, especially with the lights, sirens and big air horns. Even so, I've seen idiots intentionally slow down and block the emergency vehicles rather than yielding way to them. Yes, police car drivers do tend to take a few more chances when they're running under lights and sirens, but the blame for the resulting wreck is almost never theirs since it was somebody being stupid that got in the way.

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