First Paragraph: Writing Samples

Choosing Your Car

Planning to buy a new car? Elaine Brown suggests why you might want to avoid that sports utility vehicle.

City planners everywhere have started to view cars as bad for the environment. Some see all cars as the enemy but others think the real villains are the SUVs (sports utility vehicles). These are the large off-roaders or 4x4s such as Range Rovers or Chrysler Jeeps, often seen on the school run.

Off-roaders have become more popular in the UK over the last few years and this trend is mirrored across most of Europe.

In France this type of vehicle has had a sales growth of 11% last year and now makes up almost 5% of their total market. In response Paris has a radical proposal. A resolution has just been passed by the council which could completely ban the 4x4 from the city centre at peak times and would deny their owners residents' parking permits.

Owners of SUVs often feel safer when driving them, believing that the car's height and weight is safer in an accident. There's some truth in this when it's a head on collision but in other types of accidents they're more likely to topple over than other cars. And these vehicles are much more dangerous to pedestrians.

For many people 4x4s are merely fashionable and their off-road capabilities are never used.

The justification for the demonisation of SUVs can be seen in pollution statistics. The UK's Environmental Transport Association named the Range Rover 4.6 HSE as the dirtiest car on the road. Other SUVs are high on the list. It's environmental criteria such as this which would determine what's banned in Paris.

Ken Livingstone last month described 4x4 vehicles as 'bad for London'. He said they were 'totally unnecessary' and their owners were 'idiots'. Although he denies considering it, if Ken's been watching the French closely perhaps an outright ban of SUVs in London could follow Paris.

With many major UK cities already following London's lead on congestion charging perhaps SUV owners throughout the country should be worried.