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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 00:08 GMT 01:08 UK
Call for health warnings on 4x4s
Driving
The researches looked at studies into road accidents
Four-wheel drives - or 4x4s - should carry health warnings because of an increased injury risk to pedestrians compared to ordinary cars, experts say.

Trinity College Dublin experts say increasing numbers of people are driving these type of cars.

But, writing in the British Medical Journal, they say the risk to pedestrians comes from the car's design rather than the numbers on the roads.

They say warning notices should be put on 4x4s to raise awareness of risks.

SUVs are no more unsafe than any other type of car
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders spokesman

Sales of this type of car, also called sports utility vehicles (SUVs) have increased by 15% across Europe in the past year, while sales of standard cars have dropped by 4%.

The researchers add that in the US, 40% of new vehicles bought by drivers are classed as light trucks or vans - many of which are SUVs.

A recent study in America found that, for the same collision speed, the likelihood of a pedestrian fatality is nearly doubled in the event of a collision with a large SUV compared with a passenger car.

Other studies report higher rates (up to four times) of severe injury and death.

Risk reduction

Ciaran Simms, a lecturer in mechanical engineering and Desmond O'Neill, associate professor of medical care for the elderly, said that the increased risk from SUVs is caused by the design of the front end of the vehicles.

Pedestrian injuries from ordinary cars are mainly leg fractures and knee injuries from the initial impact with the bumper, and head injuries from the secondary impact with the bonnet or windscreen.

But researchers say that, because SUV bonnets are higher than those of cars, there is a more severe initial impact on the upper leg and pelvis, and a doubling of injuries to vulnerable regions such as the head, thorax, and abdomen.

The researchers add that elderly pedestrians are already known to be at high risk.

People over 60 are more than four times as likely to die if injured by a car than younger people.

Challenge

The report authors call for a number of measures to reduce the risks associated with SUVs, including changing crash investigations so the type of cars involved in accidents with pedestrians is identified.

They also call for warning notices on SUVs to help inform consumers of the increased risks of severe injuries and death associated with the vehicles.

They add: "Addressing the hazards posed by SUVs to pedestrians is an emerging and real traffic safety challenge in the developed world."

But a spokesman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said: "We recognise that all vehicles can be dangerous when in an accident with a pedestrian."

He said the BMJ researchers had focussed on US research, rather than UK or European work - and US vehicles were bigger.

"SUVs are no more unsafe than any other type of car."

However, the Irish researchers said they had looked at European research, and their findings were valid for cars used in Europe, as well as the US.


SEE ALSO:
MP calls for 4x4 countryside ban
24 Mar 04 |  Hampshire/Dorset
4x4s 'should carry health warning'
26 Nov 04 |  Science/Nature
Call for ban on 'school run' 4x4s
27 May 03 |  UK Politics


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