Sunday Telegraph – Sunday 26 December 2004
ROAD SAFETY - By TONY VERMEER
A MAJORITY of the population believes owners of four wheel drive vehicles should be required to obtain a special drivers licence.
They also want bull bars banned from vehicles registered in urban areas because of the danger they pose to other road users.
The results are revealed in an exclusive The Sunday Telegraph/Galaxy poll, which found 78 per cent of NSW residents support new measures to regulate 4WD vehicles.
Sales of 4WDs, or sports utility vehicles, have boomed in the past 10 years. They are up 18 per cent so far this year to 158,000 and account for almost one in four passenger vehicle sales.
But critics claim they give drivers a false sense of security, are a threat to other road users because of their size and they also take a toll on the environment because of higher fuel consumption.
The Galaxy poll revealed 55 per cent of those surveyed believed a special licence should be mandatory before drivers are allowed behind the wheel of a 4WD.
Support was higher in the city (58 per cent) than in the country (49 per cent).
Fifty-five per cent also wanted a ban on bull bars in city areas.
However, only 32 per cent agreed with the call for an increase in the registration costs of 4WDs.
Galaxy general manager David Briggs said the level of support for tougher rules was surprising.
“Overall support is greatest in
Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby welcomed the result: “Anything over two tonnes should require a special licence because it's a truck. They're not designed to handle like ordinary passenger vehicles that most people get their licences in”.
Ian Luff, who runs advanced driving courses for 4WD owners, said many of the larger 4WDs had vastly different dynamics to ordinary cars.
“A lot of owners don't understand that. You need to be more skilled, you need some form of training even if you don't take it off-road and just drive around the city,” he said.
NRMA vehicle policy adviser Jack Haley said while the motoring organisation did not advocate special licences it did advise 4WD owners to get specific training in their vehicles.
He said 4WDs were more prone to roll over but overall safety levels were comparable with larger passenger cars, he said.
Land Rover Discovery owner David Smithers, of Pymble, who has owned four 4WDs, said he did not sense any hostility from other road users when he was driving.
He has recently completed Mr Luff's special driving course but said it should be for all drivers.
`The average driver of any vehicle needs to understand what it can and can't do. It's not just about 4WDs,” he said.
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