Wednesday, 2 May 2007

4x4s, SUVs, et al

It is probably best if I get all my hackneyed gripes out of my system first otherwise they are liable to hang over when I begin to get to grips with other developments in the world and in my life basically.

Now, whatever you call them, in the UK they usually get called 4x4s (i.e. 'four by fours') and I know in the USA people call them SUVs, but what I am talking about are those large, pseudo-off-road vehicles. They are fine in their place. The UK has historically had land rovers and the posy version, the range rover, for many decades. Many of these got used off road, the former primarily on farms and the latter for driving on to the fringes of polo pitches. Of course, as elsewhere there has been an explosion in these vehicles and their most common use is now in a suburban setting.

There is a string of problems with them: that they are uneconomical in terms of fuel and they can run over small children without people noticing. I drive 60 miles (96Km) per day (I will come to public transport soon) so regularly encounter them. It is like having a brick wall pull up beside you at turnings. They tailgate you and generally make life a misery. I think it is something to do with the nature of the vehicle as when I encounter their drivers out of vehicle, they can seem a little arrogant though not as hostile as when they are driving. They are generally too wide for the slots in car parks and their drivers seem incapable of lining up between the lines anyway, they park at an angle. The drivers are in so much of a hurry that they bellow out of their windows at people in more normal cars, to close their doors, etc. so they can come on through. Much of this seems to be caused by the automatic gearboxes which mean, as one driver explained quite calmly, that the vehicles tend to over-rev if you do not keep up the speed.

Unsurprisingly I support the legislation to make the drivers of these vehicles pay more road tax. They cause more accidents than drivers of normal cars, they use up more parking space and they simply add to the stress on our roads. I accept that driving behaviour in the UK is poor, but the presence of so many of these, especially dropping children off around schools just makes driving in the UK that much harder. I would go further and ban owning these vehicles for anyone who does not work in some field such as farming or needs disabled access. No, I do not accept the whines that 'oh, but I need it to carry the children in'. I accept that children are getting larger from obesity but show me a 5-year old who is 6 feet (1.86m) tall and anyway adults of that size can fit in normal cars.

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