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4x4 drivers blinded by A-pillar

SUV drivers are being warned of a blind spot in their vehicles that is capable of hiding an entire car from view.

Research shows that many popular models in the UK car parc have A-pillar blind spots, caused by the posts either side of the windscreen, which are twice as large as those found on a typical saloon car.

MIRA (formerly the Motor Industry Research Association), who undertook the research, was commissioned to specifically test driver vision in 4x4s by Autoglass, the UK vehicle glass repair and replacement company.

The tests included a calculation of the A-pillar blind spot, or 'A-spot' - the width of objects obscured from a driver's vision from 23 metres and the stopping distance required when travelling at 30mph.

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 view.

With 32,000 people killed or injured on UK roads last year and over 25,000 accidents listing 'Looked But Failed To See' (LBFTS) as a contributory factor, Autoglass and road safety organisation, RoadSafe, are warning fleet managers that there could be a high price to pay for failing to highlight the issue to drivers.

#AM_ART_SPLIT# Nigel Doggett, managing director at Autoglass, said: "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 on UK roads, and drivers must take extra care to ensure they've seen all of the hazards around them before setting off. We would like to see specific guidance provided to new 4x4 drivers by the Driving Standards Agency.”

The Grand Jeep Cherokee has an A-spot measuring 4.5 metres, capable of hiding two full sized motorcycles from the driver's view. The Land Rover Freelander and Hyundai Santa Fe both have A-spots of 4.1 metres, capable of hiding up to 10 children from view.

Top of the 4x4 pack was the BMW X3 with an A-spot of 2.3 metres - still almost 10 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.”

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