Urban Assault Vehicles - PCA Slams Senator Boswell’s Killer-4WDs Report

Sunday 17 March 2002

PCA Slams Sen Boswell’s Killer-4WD Report

The Chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia today slammed the Media Release issued by Senator Ron Boswell (copy attached) entitled "Large increase in fatal 4WD crashes" as a classic political "Do Nothing – More of the Same” report. He likened it to Nero fiddling while Rome burnt.

Mr Scruby said: "Senator Boswell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport has issued a report revealing that there has been an 85% increase in the number of fatal 4WD (Urban Assault Vehicles) over a nine year period to 1998. He has stated that ‘the fatal crash figures for 4WD vehicles are quite staggering’. So what is he going to do about it? QUOTE: '(he) urges them (4WD owners) to drive cautiously'.

"This is nothing short of a major scandal with the responsible Parliamentary Secretary playing ‘Eyes Wired Shut – More of the Same’ while more and more Australians die on our roads as a result of these urban trucks dressed up as sedans.

Mr Scruby said; "There is so much Sen Boswell can and must do to reduce this carnage: Currently and most importantly, 4WDs attract an import tariff of 5% while Falcon, Holden and Magna equivalent passenger vehicles are 15%. Without doubt, the Federal Government’s own tariff regime is encouraging motorists to buy these killing-machines, not only at the cost of hundreds perhaps thousands of Australian lives, but to the detriment of the Australian car industry. We demand that until the manufacturers of these Urban Assault Vehicles (UAVs) can demonstrate they are as safe, in all respects, as the passenger sedans and station wagons with which they now directly compete on our market, that they attract a tariff of at least 15%, but preferably significantly higher to reflect the costs to the Australian community.

Mr Scruby added: "There are many more initiatives Senator Boswell could consider, including:

· Actively seeking the urgent implementation of a national bullbar Australian Standard and the immediate removal of the "killer" bullbars which seem to be a compulsory attachment to most 4WDs

· Special licences and training for all under 25 drivers when the 4WD weighs over 2 tonnes

· A national awareness campaign promoting the dangers of theses vehicles and making consumers aware of the "safety" myths which abound

· Asking insurers to significantly increase both CTP and MV insurance premiums on 4WDs to reflect the real costs to the community and industry

· Creating far stricter ADRs (Australian Design Rules) to ensure these vehicles are not permitted on our roads until they meet world best-practice road safety standards

· Require 4WDs to meet the same exhaust emission standards as regular sedans and wagons

· Requesting that the state and federal departments of health and social security examine and report on the real costs of allowing theses SUVs on our roads

"This is a major scandal. Although all the experts are fully aware of the carnage and costs of these killing machines on the Australian community, the National Party, which always controls the Roads and Transport portfolios when the Coalition is in Government, remains silent for fear of upsetting their rural constituency." Mr Scruby added.

Contact: Harold Scruby CEO/Chairman: (0418) 110-011 or (02) 9968-4555



Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services - Leader of the National Party in the Senate - Senator for Queensland

14 March 2002 - B8/2002


An 85% increase in the number of fatal four wheel drive (4WD) crashes over a nine year period to 1998 highlights the increasing popularity of 4WDs as a vehicle of choice for many Australians, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Regional Services, Senator Ron Boswell, said today.

Referring to figures released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), Senator Boswell said the increasing number of 4WDs on our roads is having a significant impact on road safety and is an issue of concern.

"The fatal crash figures for 4WD vehicles are quite staggering," he said.

"Between 1990 and 1998, fatal 4WD crashes increased from 101 to 187 and the number of fatal crashes involving 4WDs increased from 123 to 212 (72%) over the same period."

Senator Boswell said the number of kilometres travelled by 4WD vehicles has almost doubled between 1995 and 1998. Furthermore, the rate of 4WDs involved in fatal crashes was higher than the rate for passenger cars.

"We cannot afford to lose sight of the important message behind these figures," he said.

"As more and more Australians opt for the recreational possibilities offered by 4WDs it is important they realise that these vehicles are vastly different to passenger cars."

The ATSB study indicates that passenger car occupants fared badly in fatal 4WD crashes involving more than one vehicle, accounting for around two-thirds of the fatalities (compared to 18% for 4WD occupants).

"There are certainly differences between 4WDs and smaller passenger cars with research showing that vehicle shape and mass are critical factors in crash outcomes. In a two-vehicle collision an occupant of a larger vehicle is likely to have a better chance of survival than a person in a smaller vehicle," Senator Boswell said.

"Research shows that a significantly higher proportion of 4WDs involved in fatal crashes rolled over (35 per cent) compared with passenger cars involved in fatal crashes (13 per cent)."

The figures also show there is a greater likelihood for people in 4WDs to have fatal crashes in areas with high speed limits or as a result of alcohol intoxication.

"While I do not suggest that 4WD owners drive more recklessly than normal passenger car drivers, I think it is important to make them aware of the greater risks associated with driving a larger car and I urge them to drive cautiously," he said.

Copies of the ATSB report, Monograph 11: Fatal Four Wheel Drive Crashes, can be obtained by calling the ATSB on 02 6274 7162 or on the website at

Media Contact: Leah Nicoll - Canberra (02) 6277-3244 Brisbane (07) 3001-8150

Sydney Morning Herald - Saturday 18 December 1999


Tarred and barred

The equipment needed for serious off-road work can make 4WDs an urban traffic hazard. PETER McKAY looks at moves to rein in not only the vehicles but their city drivers.

A controversial call for tougher licence tests for owners of four-wheel-drives has received serious support in Victoria, and is now gathering momentum in NSW.

The move follows US insurance industry research showing that big 4WDs are three times more likely to kill or seriously injure road users than regular passenger cars.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia proposes a plan, which is not enjoying unanimous support among motoring experts, for a licence endorsement for any driver of a 4WD weighing more than two tonnes.

Prominent Sydney defensive-driving trainer Peter Finlay also supports the campaign to improve 4WD on-road driving standards.

"The 4WD is a compromise vehicle intended to operate in the bush and on the highway," said Finlay. "So around the suburbs or on the highway, its size, weight, high centre of gravity and body roll mean it is not as easy to control as a car. A 4WD is more prone to overturning, particularly when the driver gets a wheel on a gravel verge, even on a straight piece of road."

Finlay is also critical of 4WD tyres, which often are a compromise dirt/highway pattern and made from a harder compound. "They don't have the same grip on the bitumen, and this can affect braking distances. And the short wheelbase models tend to have a strong front-wheel brake bias with a tendency to lock the front wheels."

In Finlay's experience, a big 4WD braking to a halt from 70 km/h will take 10 metres longer than an average family sedan to stop. "There's nothing wrong with the brakes on a 4WD, but the extra weight, the harder tyres and the front braking bias combine to hurt its stopping distances."

The Pedestrian Council of Australia is proposing that drivers of such vehicles be required to pass an advanced driving course proving they can control the heavy and bulky 4WD.

"Their sheer weight, stiff front-end and reinforced chassis make them a deadly combination in the wrong hands," said the council's Harold Scruby. "There are a lot of Australians who don't really know how to drive them safely."

Scruby is surprised that more Aust-ralians - particularly the majority who drive less-aggressive small and medium sized passenger cars - are not protesting to politicians that these vehicles are endangering their lives. He also believes insurance companies should be charging much higher premiums for them.

Some modern 4WDs are designed with crumple zones that are a little "friendlier" to other vehicles in a collision - but the majority of 4WDs, with truck-like chassis, still transfer energy in a heavy impact. And those travelling in a 4WD must absorb the impact energy if it hits something as substantial as a big tree or another truck-like vehicle.

The campaign for special licences comes at a time when 4WDs are already under fire on several fronts.

Off-roaders attract 5 per cent import tariff, compared with 17.5 per cent (15 per cent after January 1) for passenger cars. Under a GST, the 4WDs will be, relatively, even cheaper.

Exhaust emission standards are lower for 4WDs than for passenger cars. The big and heavy off-roaders also use more fuel and contribute disproportionately to greenhouse emissions.

Because many 4WDs are used as passenger vehicles, the NRMA and others believe they should meet the same environmental and safety standards as regular sedans and wagons.

The NRMA is also targeting bullbars, asserting these staple 4WD fittings increase the risk of injury to pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. It believes full-sized bullbars should be fitted only to vehicles outside the metropolitan areas, where the risk of colliding with animals is greater.

Crash investigations show bullbars tend to penetrate further into other vehicles in side-on collisions.

Detachable fibreglass protectors are available for 4WD owners who drive to city areas frequently. Fishing rod holders and winches, often mounted at the front of off-roaders, have been attacked for their potential to kill and maim pedestrians and cyclists.

Safety experts are concerned, too, that non-factory bullbars can cause malfunctions of airbags or seat belt pre-tensioners.

Now car owners are bolting on their own protection, another move which alarms the Pedestrian Council.