Lib Dems declare war on four-wheel-drives

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Indy Politics

A warning shot rattled across the chrome bows of the nation's gas-guzzling four-wheel-drives yesterday, as political war was declared on two of their most popular uses - the school run and supermarket visits.

The aggressor was Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Norman Baker, who insisted that off-road vehicles intimidated other road users and damaged the environment.

Manufacturers reacted with predictable rage. The vehicles were becoming "an easy target for political opportunists," according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. The RAC's campaigning arm, the RAC Foundation, said people should have the freedom to travel as they pleased, while the AA said the state should not dictate which vehicles drivers should choose.

But Mr Baker was unmoved, insisting that his constituency of Lewes, East Sussex, suffered from a heavy traffic problem where cyclists and pedestrians were often forced up against the wall by four-wheel-drives.

He said: "Manufacturers have identified that there are only so many vehicles they can sell to farmers and others who would legitimately use such vehicles. The slogans which they are using to sell their vehicles are aimed at urban users. There are real questions whether or not someone needs a two-and-a-half ton, 22-gallon vehicle to nip to Tesco or take the kids to school."

Mr Baker said the ever-increasing use of the vehicles meant that other road users often felt intimidated. He said: "Pedestrians and cyclists certainly do, use of fossil fuels increases dramatically, and our small urban towns are being overwhelmed in some cases by these vehicles. "

A spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists said: "Drivers who opt to take heavy 4x4 vehicles on the school run should appreciate that their weight and size does indeed raise road safety issues. Drivers need to be particularly careful when they are around vulnerable road users because of the vehicle's weight, the higher centre of gravity and handling characteristics."