School run 4×4 drivers learn their lesson
Hale parents who do the school run in gas guzzling off-road vehicles got failing grades when they dropped their children off on Monday 16th October.
Campaigners from Manchester Friends of the Earth  and the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s  dressed as teachers gave poorly graded report cards to off-road vehicle drivers on Broomfield Lane in Hale, while ‘lollipop ladies’ reminded parents of the dangers urban 4x4s pose to children’s safety and the environment. The aim of the campaign was to highlight that urban use of off-road vehicles is unsafe, unsustainable and irresponsible.
Although designed for off-road use, in recent years a minority of motorists have begun to use these vehicles simply to drive to work, go shopping or do the school run. Nowhere is this trend more apparent than in the affluent suburb of Hale, where, according to recent research by Manchester Friends of the Earth, almost a fifth of pupils at Hale Preparatory School are being taken to school in an off-road vehicle.
What urban 4×4 owners often don’t realise is that besides burning fuel at a rate that puts the climate at risk , large off-road vehicles pose a significant additional threat to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. If a pedestrian is hit by an off-road vehicle they are twice as likely to be killed , and in a side-impact collision with an off-road vehicle a car driver is around four times more likely to be killed than if they are hit by a conventional car .
Furthermore, although the motor industry tries to present off-road vehicles as ‘family-friendly’ cars, it is children who come off worst in accidents involving 4x4s. The point of impact on the body is higher if hit by an off-road vehicle than a conventional car, so it is more likely to cause head and chest injuries, rather than leg and lower body injuries. This is particularly the case in collisions involving children. The size and design of off-road vehicles gives drivers a restricted view of the area immediately surrounding the vehicle. The blind spot for a driver of average height in a large 4×4 vehicle can be up to 28 inches , making small children almost impossible to see.
Graham Atherton, campaigner with Manchester Friends of the Earth, said:
“Parents who drive their kids to school in off-road vehicles are being extremely irresponsible. Vehicles such as Range Rovers and Jeeps are built for heavy-duty off-road work but many see about as much off-road action as the average ice-cream van. They are totally unsuited to cities and suburbs, where they jam up roads and increase congestion. At the school gates their tall, heavy design makes them a hazard to cyclists, other motorists and pedestrians, particularly children. Not only this, but as well as contributing to climate change, their big, inefficient engines create high levels of local pollution.”
Notes to Editors
The group consists entirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on its website: https://www.manchesterfoe.org.uk.
Manchester Friends of the Earth is part of a national network of local groups, affiliated to the national organisation (further information can be found at http://www.foe.co.uk).
 The Alliance Against Urban 4x4s (www.stopurban4x4s.org.uk) is a grassroots campaign with the aim of uniting environment, consumer, road safety groups and concerned individuals in an alliance against the growth of urban off-road vehicles on our streets. Email the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s at email@example.com.
 New Scientist, 13th December 2003, “Pedestrians at risk from sports utility vehicles”, www.newscientist.com
 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 10th February 1998, “New study of relationships between vehicle weight and occupant death rates helps put in perspective issue of crash compatibility”, www.iihs.org