Twice as deadly: more coverage

From the Sunday Herald in Scotland:

Dozens of children in the US are also run over and killed every year by large vehicles reversing. The accidents often happen in their own driveways, and the drivers are often their own parents or carers.

Ordinary cars, whose profiles are lower and less blunt, tend to cause more leg and lower body injuries which are less life-threatening, and they have lower blind spots when reversing.

When they further analysed the data, they found that the types of injuries inflicted by SUVs and other large vehicles were more likely to be fatal.

Gabler said his study was the first to quantify the increased risk of death to pedestrians from SUVs and other large vehicles, though he stressed it was not their size or weight that mattered, so much as their shape. �The more geometrically blunt they are, the greater the fatality risk,� he said.

The new study has prompted pleas from motoring organisations and environmentalists for people to avoid buying off-road vehicles for use in built-up areas. �You would need to think carefully about buying that sort of vehicle for urban use,� said John Stubbs, head of technical policy with the AA Motoring Trust.

�We have known for some time that SUVs guzzle fuel and poison the air we breathe. However, this study demonstrates that in our towns and cities they can have a much more immediate and deadly impact,� said Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland.

�Such shocking findings should make any buyer think twice before purchasing an SUV. There are very few legitimate reasons why people living in urban Scotland need such polluting and deadly vehicles. Dropping the kids off at school isn�t one of them.�

That off-road vehicles also pose a danger to pedestrians in Europe is confirmed by safety tests performed on behalf of the UK and four other European governments. The European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) rates vehicles on the damage they would inflict on pedestrians in a 25 mph crash by giving them up to four stars for safety. Of the nine large off-road vehicles so far tested, one is so bad it earns no stars, seven earn one star, and one earns two stars (see table). Their designs are variously condemned as offering �poor� or �dire� protection to pedestrians.

The killer potential of SUVs did not surprise Labour transport adviser, David Begg, chair of the Commission for Integrated Transport. �Four by fours were not designed to be kind to pedestrians,� he said.

They were attacked by the Green MSPs as �deadly weapons� and �an extreme form of anti-social behaviour�.

The accident was blamed by experts on the difficulty of seeing infants at the back of large vehicles. �In the US at least 58 children were backed over and killed last year, often by a relative in their own driveway, and often by a larger vehicle such as an SUV,� said Janette Fennell, founder of the US lobby group, Kids And Cars.