The Sunday Telegraph – Sunday 24 October 2004

4WDs more likely to kill - Study on vehicle safety



DRIVERS of all other vehicles on the road come off second best in accidents with a four-wheel drive, new research reveals.

A small car driver is 4 1/2 times as likely as a 4WD driver to be injured or die in a collision between the two.

A commercial van driver is twice as much at risk as a 4WD driver if they crash, as is the driver of a large or medium car.

The drivers of a passenger van or luxury car face one and a half times the risk.

The figures are contained in a study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre which has developed a method of measuring the comparative safety of different classes of vehicles on the road.

Despite their superior performance in protecting their own occupants in collisions, road safety would deteriorate if everybody drove a 4WD, researchers found. That is because they are not so good when they collide with other 4WDs or in single vehicle accidents.

“If everybody drove 4WDs we would be significantly worse off,” said senior researcher Stuart Newstead.

“The only reason their overall safety looks quite good is that they perform well in hitting other vehicles at the expense of the driver of the other vehicle.” Fourteen per cent of single vehicle accidents involving 4WD vehicles caused death or serious injury compared to 10 per cent for large cars.

Although they were twice as likely as a sedan to roll over this was not the primary reason for the higher injury rate, the research shows.

“It appears that when they hit something other than a car the occupants are more likely to be injured,” Mr Newstead said. “It could be for a number of reasons.

“They don't have to conform to the same design rules as locally manufactured vehicles and you have a lot more mass to control.” Sales of 4WD have boomed in the past 10 years.

Their popularity has been greatly enhanced because of their preferential tariff treatment which originated when they were primarily used for farming.

Four-wheel drives attract a tariff of only five per cent compared to 15 per cent for other imported vehicles -- which will fall to 10 per cent from January 1.

Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby said the tariffs for 4WD should be immediately increased.

As well, he called for the introduction of special licences for 4WD drivers and for the enforcement of Australian design rules and safety standards.


Caption:  Call for special licenses: Increasingly popular 4WD's are muscling out other cars during collisions
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