Sydney Morning Herald - Sunday 23 October 2005
Council urges families to avoid 4WDs

The number of toddlers killed or maimed in driveways would drop dramatically if families stopped buying "lethal" four-wheel drive vehicles, the Pedestrian Council of Australia says.

The warning comes after former Wallaby captain Phil Kearns accidentally ran over his young daughter outside the family's Mosman home yesterday morning.

He had been reversing his Volkswagen Touareg in the driveway.

His 19-month-old daughter, Andie, is in a critical but stable condition on a respirator at The Children's Hospital at Randwick.

PCA chairman Harold Scruby today said the accident should serve as a reminder that four-wheel drives were dangerous vehicles.

"People buy them thinking they're safe, but they simply are not," Mr Scruby said.

"They're extremely dangerous, lethal even, and you can't see little children below the guard."

He said 30 Australian toddlers are killed each year in driveway accidents, with a further 300 injured.

More than two thirds of the accidents involve four-wheel drives.

"Without these vehicles, this wouldn't be such a problem," he said.

Mr Scruby, who lives two doors from the Kearns family, said the latest incident was a tragedy that many families could learn from.

"No-one's blaming Phil Kearns," he said.

"We're simply saying, for God's sake, don't buy these ridiculous tanks."

He called on the federal government to pass a mandate for all four-wheel drives to be fitted with reversing cameras.

The cameras, currently fitted in Lexus cars, screen footage from the rear bumper in the rear vision mirror when the vehicle is in reverse.

Rear bumper sensors were not sensitive enough to "pick up" small children and the reverse beeping mechanism was relatively ineffective with toddlers, Mr Scruby said.

He also called on the commonwealth to immediately increase the tariff on the vehicles, above the current five per cent.

"We welcome anything to discourage people from buying these things."


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