Fleet News

Industry fury over fresh 4x4 claims

THE motor industry has reacted angrily to research that claims drivers of 4x4s are more likely to ignore seatbelt laws and use a mobile phone behind the wheel.

A study by Imperial College London (ICL) has concluded that 4x4 drivers are four times more likely than drivers of other vehicles to use a hand-held mobile on the move, and were less likely to wear a seatbelt. However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says the research is weak and flimsy and should not be read as fact.

ICL researcher Lesley Walker and her colleagues watched more than 41,000 vehicles at three points in West London during February 2004. They found 4x4 drivers were 26% more likely to not be wearing a seat belt and four times more likely to be on the phone, and hypothesise that this could be because of ‘risk compensations’ – drivers of 4x4s feel safer and are so more complacent.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, which published the report, Walker said: ‘Our data shows a worryingly high level of non-compliance with laws on seatbelts and hand-held mobile phones by drivers in London.

‘Our observation that almost one-in-six drivers was not wearing a seatbelt is a public health concern.’

The SMMT pointed out that only three points in one area of London had been looked at.

Chief executive Christopher Macgowan said: ‘They seem to have made a huge leap of logic about drivers. Surely it can’t be good science to suggest that the safety benefits of driving a 4x4 makes people more complacent and therefore more likely to use their mobile phone illegally while driving?’

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