The Daily Telegraph – Saturday 8 January 2005


Four-wheel monster or just another car


By Warren Brown, Harold Scruby


Four-wheel-drives have again outstripped other cars as the top-selling passenger vehicles of 2004. Do they deserve their reputation as a menace to pedestrians and other motorists?




WHILE 4WD sales soar and self-interest booms, our legislators continue to bury their collective heads in the sand and allow apathy, ignorance and myopia to prevail over the common good.


The 4WD is responsible for so much carnage on our roads -- a large, high ground clearance on an over two-tonne truck, dressed up to look like a passenger vehicle.


These vehicles are up to 22 times more likely to kill the occupants of a small to medium-sized vehicle in a side-impact collision. They are two to three times more likely to roll over. They guzzle petrol, they pollute, they take 10m further to stop at 60km/h, they handle appallingly, they obscure the vision of other drivers and they take up far more than their fair share of parking space. And out of the 18 children involved in driveway deaths last year, 12 were struck by 4WDs.


There are some green slip insurers who cynically joke that 4WDs actually lower their costs in road crashes. This is because they are far more likely to kill, not maim their victims and deaths are far cheaper than injuries.


Now, a study in the US (Clay Gabler and Devon Lefler from Rowan University) has found that a pedestrian struck by a large 4WD is more than twice as likely to die as someone hit by a saloon car travelling at the same speed. As a result, Jeffrey Runge, the head of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, called on the car industry to make 4WDs safer.


As they are lower in profile, cars tend to cause leg injuries, which are less likely to kill than head injuries.


On January 1 this year, the tariff on ordinary and much safer passenger vehicles fell from 15 per cent to 10 per cent, while 4WDs remained at 5 per cent. This means that while this absurd disparity was reduced, it still acts as an incentive for people to choose the unsafe 4WD over safer vehicles.


Although they are designed and marketed as passenger vehicles, 4WDs are not required to meet all the safety regulations which apply to ordinary passenger vehicles.


There is much our governments could do to immediately and significantly reduce the trauma caused by these urban assault vehicles.


This includes legislating so that the tariff for all 4WDs is at least double that for passenger vehicles, require a special licence and training for all 4WDs over two tonnes, special “environment” taxes for vehicles which guzzle petrol, and dramatic increases in CTP insurance (third-party) premiums and registration for 4WDs.


* Harold Scruby is chairman of the Pedestrian Council




IT'S great see the proud Australian tradition of wowserism is alive and well in the 21st century.


Brothers and sisters, we've progressed from merely espousing the evils of the demon drink, or the perils of gambling, or the growth-stunting propensity of cigarettes.


Yes, it's come to light that four-wheel-drives will see the demise of our clean-living, chaste society -- they're the scourge of Australia.


Clearly, an extra differential, a transfer case and all four wheels driving are the work of the devil.


“More people will die,” is the message we're told.


Whatever you do, don't get killed by the sheet steel of a 4WD. It's much more desirable to meet your maker through a head-on with a softer vehicle, say a semi-trailer, or a bus, or a V8 Commodore.


As everyone knows apparently, injuries aren't caused by speed, or poor conditions, or lousy drivers -- they're caused by 4WDs. Most 4WDs today are very safe because they are in constant four-wheel drive -- all four wheels stick to the road like the proverbial to a blanket. Try and lose a Land Rover Discovery in the wet.


Yes, and people carry on about the height and how four-wheel-drivers go on about better vision. Well, guess what -- it's true.


Seriously, whether you like them or not, 4WDs are just like any other car -- they're driven by human beings.

If the likes of Harold Scruby want us to become a nation of Datsun 120Y drivers because somehow “Landcruiser” written backwards spells “Satan”, then his way of thinking is out of kilter.


It's not the car that's the problem, it's the nut behind the wheel.


It should seem kind of obvious, but one of the reasons 4WDs are increasingly represented in crash statistics is because more and more people are buying them.


And because of the safety 4WDs afford to their drivers and occupants, it could also be argued that those people are protected from the consequences of collisions -- collisions which, statistically, would still have occurred if they were driving other cars anyway, possibly with more devastating consequences for a greater number of people.


But such points are, of course, completely lost on those who regard the 4WD as the source of all known human evil and will stop at nothing to stop the rest of us driving them.


* Daily Telegraph cartoonist Warren Brown drives an old Land Rover, carefully


© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from News Limited

Sydney Morning Herald – Saturday 8 January 2005




The 4WD challenge


The roughest terrain faced by most four-wheel drives is a speed hump in a shopping centre car park. Not for them the rock-strewn deserts and treacherous creeks of the outback - more the byways of suburbia. While the questions continue about their safety and economy, one thing is clear: the tariff concession on 4WDs should be scrapped. Their sales hardly need encouragement; latest figures show 4WDs selling in record numbers, carrying off buyers who would once have chosen a family sedan or wagon. When tariffs on passenger vehicles were cut from 15 per cent to 10 per cent on January 1, those on 4WDs should have been increased from 5 per cent (a concession to primary producers) to 10. All-terrain vehicles shouldn't have a problem with a level playing field.
© This work is copyright and is reproduced under licence from John Fairfax Holdings Limited