Protesting ‘Teachers’ give ‘could do better’ report cards to school-run 4×4 drivers

Birmingham Friends of the Earth has teamed up with the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s [1] to mark the first day back at school after the Christmas break (Tuesday 11th January) with a protest against urban four-wheel drive (4×4) vehicles.

‘Head Teachers’ in traditional mortar boards and gowns will distribute ‘could do better’ report cards to 4×4 drivers on Westbourne Road while ‘lollipop ladies’ remind parents of the threat urban 4x4s pose to children’s safety and the environment.[2]

The Birmingham action will coincide with a main event in North London where protesters will target a busy junction that becomes snarled and dangerous when the school run hits. Similar actions will be taking place in Manchester and Nottingham.[3]

Siân Berry of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s said:

"Today we are giving hundreds of parents a D for environmental damage and an E for effort. Parents who drive their kids to school in urban 4x4s are being extremely irresponsible. Vehicles such as Range Rovers and Jeeps are built for heavy-duty off-road work but many see about as much off-road action as the average pram." [4]

"They are totally unsuitable for cities and suburbs, where they jam up roads and increase congestion. At the school gates their tall, heavy design makes them a hazard to cyclists, other motorists and pedestrians, particularly children. As well as contributing to climate change [5] their big, inefficient engines also create high levels of local pollution."

Birmingham Friends of the Earth campaigner Kate Nancarrow said:

"The daily school run epitomises the problems large 4x4s cause in cities, where they threaten smaller vehicles and pedestrians. We fully support the Alliance’s call for increased road tax for the most polluting vehicles and a ban on mainstream advertising for 4x4s."

Ms Nancarrow continued:

"Ironically, the effects of climate change are going to be felt most keenly by the kids who are travelling in the back of these gas-guzzlers. Britain is trying to lead the international effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the fashion for these cars is undermining that objective."

Editor's Notes

1. The Alliance, made up of members of the Green Party, Friends of the Earth, Transport 2000 and other groups, is seeking to highlight the dangers to other road users posed by 4x4s. It hit the headlines last year when its members issued fake parking tickets to urban 4x4s across the country. The tickets, which many drivers thought were genuine, accused 4×4 owners of making a poor vehicle choice.

The Alliance is stepping up its campaign after figures revealed that a record number of off-road vehicles were sold last year. Sales of 4x4s grew by 12.8 per cent to 179,439, more than double the number sold a decade ago. Manufacturers reported a corresponding fall in demand for small, fuel-efficient vehicles.

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2. Research in the United States has shown that someone struck by a 4×4 is more than twice as likely to die as someone hit by a saloon car travelling at the same speed. A car driver is also around four times more likely to be killed if hit from the side by a 4×4 than by a saloon, according to the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The larger models perform badly in pedestrian crash protection tests, with only the Volvo XC90 achieving more than one star. The Suzuki Grand Vitara scored no stars and its record in crashes with pedestrians was described as "dire" in its safety report from the European new car assessment programme. Most family cars gained at least two stars and several achieved three stars.

Figures from Churchill Insurance reveal that 4x4s are 25 per cent more likely to be involved in crashes than ordinary family cars. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has also described 4x4s as "totally unsuitable for the school run".

3. Contact Siân Berry at for details of activities in other cities

4. Last year more than a fifth of the 4x4s were sold in the Greater London area and only a fraction were expected ever to be taken off-road by their owners.

5. Some versions of the Range Rover produce 389g carbon dioxide per kilometre, double the rate of the Ford Mondeo.