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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 April 2006, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
4x4 vehicles 'school run hazard'
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News education reporter at the ATL conference

4x4 wheel drive
Teachers have safety concerns about 4x4 vehicles
Danger signs should be placed on 4x4 vehicles to prevent parents from using them on the school run, teachers say.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers will vote on plans to put warnings on dashboards.

History teacher Phil Whaley said 4x4s and sports utility vehicles were more likely than conventional cars to kill children and the danger was increased when bull bars were attached.

He urged the government to carry out further research into the risks.

'Chelsea tractors'

Mr Whaley, whose Hardenhuish School is in a rural area of Wiltshire, said many parents bought 4x4s as "status symbols".

He added: "This is not about bashing the toffs in their Chelsea tractors or town against country.

"It's not about environmental issues. It's about child safety and education."

He said international research showed 4x4s were more likely to kill small children than normal, lower, cars, as they tended to collide with their chests or heads.

The driver's high vantage point also made it harder to see pedestrians.

With small children, it could well hit their heads
Phil Whalley

Mr Whalley said UK accident figures did not differentiate between types of vehicles involved.

However, US research showed sports utility vehicles (SUVs) were two to four times more likely to kill or seriously injure people than cars, he added.

Mr Whalley said: "The problem is that, when children are hit, they are taking the impact on their main torso or vital organs.

"With small children, it could well hit their heads."

'Social attitudes'

He asked the UK government to carry out more research on the types of vehicles involved in accidents.

In the meantime, it should issue drivers with details of international studies, so they could make a more informed choice before buying a 4x4.

Mr Whalley said: "We don't have as many SUVs as countries like America or Australia, but we have more pedestrians.

"We should have a notice on the dashboard to remind drivers."

But the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT) said many of the fears surrounding 4x4s and SUVs were unfounded and based on "unhelpful stereotypes and inaccurate statistics".

"The safety of occupants and pedestrians is of the highest priority for automotive manufacturers," said SMMT spokesman Keith Lewis.

"The industry has recognised the concerns that have been raised and is making the necessary investments and improvements in vehicle design."

Bullbars had not been fitted, by manufacturers, to new cars of any type since 2002, he stressed.


SEE ALSO:
'Outlaw' school run parents named
05 Apr 06 |  Education
School run 4x4 drivers targeted
11 Jan 05 |  London
4x4 or against?
22 Mar 06 |  Magazine


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