Sales of 4x4 vehicles double in London

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Beloved of status-conscious parents on school runs, the cars now make up one in seven sold in London.

Designed for rough terrain rather than urban tarmac, Sports Utility Vehicle (SUVs) sales are up by 84 per cent nationally over eight years, but demand has doubled in the capital.

The figures were greeted with anger by safety and environment groups who say the so-called "Chelsea tractors" are dangerous to pedestrians.

Last week the British Medical Journal registered its conviction that they were a danger to pedestrians.

In the capital, the number of SUVs has risen from 88,882 in 1997 to 176,610 last year. Tests show that pedestrians hit by SUVs are less likely to survive than those hit by ordinary cars.