SUV and 4x4 owners are driving dangerously 'blind', according to major new Irish research.
Many of the 12,000 SUVs sold here last year have a blind spot in their vehicles capable of hiding an entire car from view, it says.
These blotouts are caused by the pillars either side of the windscreen. The pillars are twice as big as in a conventional family saloon because they have to support a larger structure.
But they now represent a 'major road safety hazard', according to the study.
Carried out by the MIRA (formerly the Motor Industry Research Association) and commissioned by Autoglass, the research is likely to reignite the whole SUV debate and add to a growing antipathy towards the so-called gas guzzlers. A recent Trinity College study showed such vehicles are twice as likely as cars to be involved in fatal pedestrian accidents. Yesterday, the Road Safety Authority (RSA) said the findings on the 'A-spots' (so called because the pillars in are called A-pillars) presented a major safety risk.
Its chief executive Noel Brett said: "These findings point to the presence of larger-than-normal blind spots on 4x4 vehicles and this means there is a greater risk of these drivers not seeing that pedestrian or cyclist."
The vehicles tested included the Land Rover Discovery and Freelander, BMW X3, Grand Jeep Cherokee, Nissan X-Trail and Hyundai Santa Fe - all popular family vehicles.
The research says they are capable of hiding a group of children from view.
The researchers measured the width of objects 23 metres away which were obscured from vision.
The Grand Jeep Cherokee fared particularly badly in the tests with an A-spot measuring 4.5 metres. The research says such a sight vacuum is capable of hiding two full-sized motorcycles from the driver's view.
The Land Rover Freelander and Hyundai Santa Fe didn't perform much better, both with A-spots of 4.1 metres - capable of hiding a group of up to 10 children.
Top of the 4x4 pack was the BMW X3 with an A-spot of 2.3 metres but that is still almost 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.
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