So popular ... and fatal

The Daily Telegraph

Friday 26 July 2002


THE Turramurra Tractor is more popular than ever before -- and the consequences are fatal.
The death of yet another child in Sydney this week has reignited debate about the safety of 4WD vehicles, which continue to boom in popularity.

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph yesterday show 69,306 4WDs were sold in Australia in the first six months of this year -- equivalent to total 4WD sales for the whole of 1997.

While the school community at Pittwater House, Collaroy mourns the death of pre-schooler Bethany Holder, one safety campaigner yesterday questioned whether the 4WD that crushed the youngster should have been allowed on school grounds in the first place.

“What the hell was that 4WD doing in a schoolyard ... why not get a bulldozer in?” said Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby.

Bethany, 5, died on Wednesday morning when she was struck by a Nissan Patrol in the driveway of the school.

Police have said the driver, a 28-year-old Ingleside woman, simply did not see the little girl, who was on foot with her 11-year-old sister and father.

Mr Scruby said 4WDs had “no place” around schools -- and although figures indicated the vehicles were here to stay, there were measures which could be put in place to minimise the risk posed by their size and design. “They have to be made safer, at least bringing the vehicles up to parity with much safer passenger vehicles,” Mr Scruby said.

Suggestions to manage the risks included:

  • BRINGING their import tariff into line with the higher rate imposed on passenger cars

  • STRONGER enforcement of laws surrounding the size and design of bull bars

  • INTRODUCING demerit points for dangerous parking

  • INCORPORATING a reversing beep, similar to that in trucks, into the design of 4WDs

  • MORE police in school zones

According to child injury prevention group KidSafe, the design of most cars meant small children outside a vehicle were not visible to drivers.

“They're not designed for us to look out for little people running around,” Kidsafe program manager Jennifer Duncombe said yesterday. She added the most important preventative measure remained driver awareness.

Editorial: Page 22

Death and 4WDs

  • During the 1990s, the total number of fatal crashes in Australia decreased -- but fatal 4WD crashes increased by 85 per cent

  • In all fatal crashes, 4WDs are much more likely to roll over compared with a standard passenger car

  • In fatal crashes involving a 4WD and a standard passenger car, 65 per cent of deaths are occupants in the standard passenger car

  • 4WDs do not steer or handle as capably as a standard passenger car

  • 4WDs are involved in most driveway fatalities where a young child is killed

  • In some 4WD models, a spare wheel high on the rear door impairs vision

Source: Australian Transport Safety Bureau, NRMA