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  • Drivers blinded by the danger of 4x4s as new research uncovers major vision problems

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    • Drivers blinded by the danger of 4x4s as new research uncovers major vision problems

2 October 2006

Drivers blinded by the danger of 4x4s as new research uncovers major vision problems

4x4 drivers are being warned of a blind spot in their vehicles that is capable of hiding an entire car from view. New research shows that many popular models among the 105,000 4x4s sold this year have A-Pillar blind spots twice as large as typical family saloon cars1, representing a major road safety hazard.

MIRA (formerly the Motor Industry Research Association), who undertook the research, was commissioned to specifically test driver vision in 4x4s by Autoglass, the UK’s leading vehicle glass repair and replacement expert. The tests were undertaken in response to earlier research this year into A-Pillar obscuration levels on a range of popular vehicles.

The latest research has uncovered a number of alarming findings. The vehicles tested, which include the Land Rover Discovery and Freelander, BMW X3, Grand Jeep Cherokee, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Santa Fe models, all of which are popular family vehicles, are capable of hiding an entire group of children from the driver’s view2.

With 32,000 people killed or injured on UK roads last year3 and over 25,000 accidents listing ‘Looked But Failed To See’ (LBFTS) as a contributory factor4, Autoglass and leading road safety organisation, RoadSafe, are warning 4x4 drivers that there could be a high price to pay for failing to check their A-Pillar blind spot. Pedestrians hit by 4x4 vehicles are twice as likely to die than those hit by hatchback or saloon cars according to recent research from Trinity College, Dublin5.

Nigel Doggett, managing director at Autoglass , comments: “Because of their size, 4x4 vehicles require thicker A-Pillars than smaller vehicles in order to maintain their structural strength. This has had a detrimental effect on the driver’s vision, with the creation of significant blind spots that pose a real threat to other road users.

“It is of particular concern considering the high volume of 4x4 vehicles used to pick children up from school, and parent-drivers must take extra care to ensure they’ve seen all of the hazards around them before setting off. More than 12,000 4x4s were sold in July 2006 alone, and we would like to see specific guidance provided to new 4x4 drivers by the Driving Standards Agency.

“Thousands of 4x4 drivers remain unaware of the dangers posed by the giant A-Pillar blind spots their vehicles possess and they must adapt their driving habits to compensate for this. By pausing, and looking around the A-Pillars at junctions, roundabouts and when parking, 4x4 drivers can help reduce the risk of hitting other vehicles and pedestrians.”

The Grand Jeep Cherokee faired particularly badly in tests with an A-Spot measuring 4.5 metres, capable of hiding two full sized motorcycles from the driver’s view. The vehicle also received a zero rating in Euro NCAP tests for pedestrian safety.

The Land Rover Freelander and Hyundai Santa Fe didn’t perform much better, both with A-Spots of 4.1 metres, capable of hiding up to ten children from view. Top of the 4x4 pack was the BMW X3 with an A-Spot of 2.3 metres – still almost ten times larger than the best performing saloon car, the Audi A4. Other results included the Land Rover Discovery 3, with an A-Spot of 3.4 metres, and the Nissan X-Trail, with an A-Spot of 2.9 metres – capable of hiding a small car from view.

Earlier this year, RoadSafe joined Autoglass to call for the creation of an A-Spot taskforce by the Government after initial research highlighted the A-Spot issue on a cross section of popular vehicles seen on UK roads. The initial results have been sent to the Department for Transport, and Autoglass now plans to send a copy of the latest findings relating to 4x4 A-Pillar blind spots. The Government has already commissioned research into A-Pillar obscuration levels by the Transport Research Laboratory, the findings of which are yet to be published.

Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe, adds: “Drivers have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with their vehicle and must ensure their own safety and that of their passengers. It’s also important to watch out for other road users, looking out for both rear and forward facing blind spots. The latest research from Autoglass shows that A-Pillar blind spots need to be acknowledged, especially on 4x4 vehicles, and the guidance offered by Autoglass should be noted.”

As market leader and one of the world’s largest roadside organisations, Autoglass is committed to reducing the number of accidents that occur each year on UK roads and providing motorists with advice to help ensure their safety. Autoglass commissioned tests into 4x4 A-Pillar obscuration levels as part of an ongoing programme of research into key road safety issues.

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