Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I drive a 4x4

I was listening to the radio the other day and the ugly topic of four wheel drives should be banned in inner city areas came up..

I’m all for making the roads safer, but the major argument seems to be the of hitting pedestrians and the damage it can and does cause, along with not being able to 'see' through the car in front to judge traffic.

Any car will damage a pedestrian - the degrees of damage vary. Any vehicle with a bullbar will cause the same damage. Older cars with the squarer fronts will also cause more damage than a slick little sedan. Unfortunately not everyone can afford to drive a slick little new car, nor can they afford to own 2 vehicles.

As for being able to 'see through' the vehicle in front, this is garbage. If you drive with the correct distance between you and the vehicle in front, this is not issue. The number of tradesman's vans, trucks and passenger vans on the road exclude this as being an issue. Also Dark tint is making it increasing difficult to 'see through' a vehicle. People movers because of their height also prove difficult to see through.

We live approx 40km from the CBD and on a rural property. We use the four wheel drive component of the vehicle on a weekly basis. We use our vehicle for the purpose it was intended as well as the family car.

We can not afford a second vehicle, as has been suggested by some. The costs JUST for insurance and registration exceed $1000.00 per year, add to that maintenance and the cost could well exceed $5000.00 per year.

Some people are saying that the users/owners of four wheel drives should pay a higher registration fee to enable us to use the roads. This is grossly unfair. Why should we be punished for living in a rural setting and not in the inner city/suburbs?

I understand that some people buy 4x4’s exclusively for transporting children to and from school, as the darling husband thinks they are safer. When you only have 1-2 children having such a large vehicle ONLY for that task, it is criminal. Perhaps driving lessons are required?

Another aspect of four wheel drive ownership that many people overlook is that a family of 6 (2 adults and 4 children) or a couple with a blended family, have only 2 choices when it comes to vehicle choice. These choices are:- a people mover OR a four wheel drive. I agree with the purchasers a four wheel drive in this instance IS safer. A people mover has inferior driver/front seat passenger leg protection and in my eyes a four wheel drive IS safer.

AND Just because you live in the suburbs or the inner city, doesn’t mean that you don’t use the full potential of the vehicle. You may own a caravan, you may own horses. The towing capacity of a four wheel drive is superior by far.

So just because I live in Balwyn or Gisborne I have equal right to the ownership of a four wheel drive, as long as it is used for the purpose it was intended which is:-
Rough terrain driving
Heavy towing
6 plus people transport

I don’t believe there is a way to monitor usage and therefore to randomly introduce penalties for ownership of such vehicles is not the Australia we all know.

Your input comment and thoughts appreciated!


  1. I agree, and in fact it's going to get worse. With new carseat laws, most small cars will not fit 3 children in the back. New slimline car seats are coming out, but it's going to add to the problem.

    There are far more creative solutions to transport issues, starting with better public transport and pedestrian zones! Then there is distributing businesses - it is ridiculous to have immense suburbs around a centre where everyone has to go to work. Talking about 4wds is a bandaid designed to make it look like you are doing something rather than actually doing anything hard and possibly unpopular.

  2. Hi Deb - I had this post written many months ago - but in the last week I nearly hit a pedestrian and it wasn't my fault (see 2 posts back) Then today in Melbourne there has been a catastrophic failure of the Melbourne public transport system.

    You are right – the average sedan manages 2 child car seats across only. (This hadn’t even crossed my mind)

    And the band-aid approach – you are 100% correct. But a band-aid to what? – The vehicles are legally bought and sold in Australia, you wouldn’t buy one and incur extra fuel charges and similar unless you actually need one.

    I DO drive a four wheel drive and I need it. We tow horse, boats and caravans, plus loads of wood and similar. In fact 2 nights ago a kangaroo hopped into the side of my 4X4, if I had been driving a sedan, I would suggest the vehicle would be undriveable.

    Thanks for the comments and making me think about the child seats also!


  3. Hi Heather,

    After reading your post I completely approve of your 4WD use in the city, as it's justified. However, I don't completely agree with all your comments...

    4WDs are more dangerous to pedestrians and other road users: Pedestrian hit by 4x4 is about 4 times more likely to die than if hit by sedan (I believe, sure of source). Other car drivers more likely to injured if hit by 4WD. Bullbars are not required in the city and shouldn't be there, without good reason.

    4WDs do obstruct other drivers' vision: I always, always keep a safe distance from the car in front but even with greater distance, I still can't see through the 4WD to what's ahead, as I can if it's a sedan. Commercial vehicles like vans are there by necessity and I assume there are as few as possible on the road (who would drive one if they didn't have to!?) whilst there are many unnecessary 4WDs in the city. Of course, the 4WDer also has poor vision of beneath them, hence 90%+ of kiddies run over in their driveways is by 4WD.

    Higher registration costs for 4WD: I agree with the call for higher costs to register 4WD to account for the injuries but only those registered to metro addresses. 4WDs do have their place and I understand are the wiser choice for many purposes- rural property, outback, horse towing, camping.

    Driving lessons: I would be very pleased if mandatory 4WD lessons were introduced. It needn't be long, maybe just a day, to ensure drivers understand the added danger of their type of vehicle. I think this may help ease some of the frustration at terrible 4WDers that are just terrible drivers- regardless of vehicle.

    Large families: My family of seven had a 4WD when I was at school, living in Burwood, and family made the choice based on legroom, as we are all tall (except Mum) and recreation (squashing rabbits during plague, camping).

    I do appreciate that some people own 4WDs and use them for the purposes they were built for but there are too many bad drivers in the city as it is. Many bad drivers in vehicles that they have no appreciation for the danger, is very scary for those of use in metro-suited hatchbacks!

  4. Hi Andrea - thanks for the comments

    I agree a bullbar causes proboems for pedestrians, I even made reference to it in the 3rd paragraph, but I can;t remove my bullbar everytime I wish to enter the city fringes, and because of a rotten leg - I can't use public transport and I can't afford taxis, so what do I do?

    4x4's do obstruct vision - again agreed (paragraph 4) but people movers and dark tint also have the same issues as 4x4's. Kids are often (unfortunately) run-over by vehicles, bot sedan and 4x4 - I;m not sure of the figure - but 99% of the time it's due to drive in-attention.

    Higher registrations? - So because I live in the bush and can;t afford 2 cars, I am now going to punished for having 1 car that does the job of two?

    Driving lessons - 4wd lessons will only cause people to be more confident that what they should be - don't - let me finish - people have trouble driving a normal car on normal roads, get them onto a clay base, they'll panic and do something stupid. Add to that the family sitting beside them screaming - yeah great idea. Because I've seen it happen they can;t drive the Black Spur without being dangerous to other road users, who hope have they got on unmade 4x4 roads?

    4x4 for a large family - so you agree - big families have no other real choice, for comfort AND safety. Now hold that thought, a large family is least able to afford higher registration fees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There are TOO many bad drivers everywhere, the problem is that when someone does break the law/road rules, they are often let off with a fine, the fine accumulates, they never pay, they move house, the Sheriffs Office is owed a busketloaf. The courts catch up with them, they pay $10 a week until the day they die. (whilst continuing the cycle) Take the car, make the driver unlincesed and the maybe some responsiliby to go with good driving MIGHT make people better drivers.

    FYI - I have 20 accidents in 20 years and only 1 has been my fault - 4 cars written off, I used to drive V8's now I drive 4x4's because the families needs have changed. (and I only have 1 car)

    Would you mother have agreed to higher registration for the privilege of driving a 4x4? Especially with a large family. Could she have afforded it?

    These are questions that need to be asked.

  5. Hi again Heather,

    By saying bull bars shouldn't be in city unnecessarily, I mean on cars that don't leave the city- there's plenty if them.

    Visibility: I'm not sure how many tinted windows are legal, though I can see around cars with tinted window better than 4WD. Dark tinted windows that can't be seen through are not ideal. Instead of using one hazard as an excusif for another- I think if we can't see through, It shouldn't be allowed. Parked 4WDs also a big problem- sometimes it's impossible to see if a car is coming and have to slowly put nose out and wish for good luck! I agree most kids run over is careless- all driver should turn off radio and put windows down in driveway or reversing.

    Rego costs: I said I think higher rego cost should be higher for 4WD for metro owners only. Maybe even only if it is the 2nd, 3rd car etc. Though I don't think higher rego cost will affect the big cause of city-4WD-hatred: the

    Driving lessons: The excuse that defensive driving encourages hoons is unfounded. Drivers need to practice defensive skills to be safe in unexpected conditions. Even if they push the limits, good training can avert accidents. I'd be happy with education classes instead of proper skills training though.

    I think that before the problem of poor punishment is poor and unskilled drivers being permitted on the road in the first place. Prevention of bad drivers by education and training is far better than trying to punish those that fail to be compliant (and occasionally punish those that are unsafe and incompetent)

  6. How do you monitor city 4x4 V country 4x4?

    Can you see through people movers? - parked vehicles, anything bigger than a hatchback can cuase problems in many areas, not just 4x4's

    Again, how can you monitor city 4x4's V country 4x4's? - Oh......... I know how, mum and dad live in the country....... HA - just got the cheap rego......... <-- that happens with insurance, why not 4x4 tax?

    I'm not talking about defensive driving - I;m talking about 4x4 lessons. People often tend only to be idiots on the open when they are by themselves, I agree with defensive driving courses. But 4x4 lessons, the driver (adult male) tends to take the family with him and when it gets scary and the vehicle starts to tilt, the creaming starts (this I know) and it can BE VERY distracting. If you haven't tested the waters with a 4x4, you shouldn't be off road in any serious form or fasion.

    A gree with the punishment doesn;t fit the crime, but you have to remember little Johnny has a problem, he comes from a broken home, he didn't understand he was doing something wrong. He gets a slap on the wrist - NEST TIME HE KILLS 4 PEOPLE.

    You err in the first place, you should be punished as prescribed by law, not some namby pamby idea of punishment

    late now - will check back tomorrow!

    Thanks Andrea really appreciated!

  7. I agree that ppl would cheat if higher rego was only for certain areas. I also expect many city dwelling 4WDers could afford it and it won't deter them.

    I can't see through people movers either but there are far less of them and I don't fear that changing (who would buy ugly mover if not needed?)

    Driver training: I don't care what the training involves but think it needs to educate on the increased risk of the vehicle and ensure that drivers at least have basic skills to maneuver the vehicle (license test don't do this and clearly the drivers that bother me cannot)

    I don't think it's entirely little Johnny fault if he's an incompetent and dangerous driver- Vicroads only checked he can putt around the block at 40kmh and do nothing to ensure he can safely handle a vehicle. I think the licensing system responsible for poorly skilled drivers in the first place, too often with fatal consequence. Since 4WDs have a greater chance of killing or injuring another I think it's even more important they are at least a little bit competent.

    That's my 2c for now

  8. If a penalty is placed on 4x4's in the city - people with larger families will just move to people movers, and then you are in the same position - do you ban people movers in built-up areas also?

    Completely agree - but a 4x4 is a car and therefore defensive driving course is fine, but people, will think 4x4 MUST HAVE 4x4 training on off-road, all that mud etc etc and then go out and scare the shit out of everyone AND ensure a retrieve and write-off along with the damage caused when the bloody things tips over, due to incompetence.

    Vicroads have changed the rules (not sure if you are aware) but to gain a 'P' plate these days - you need to have gained 120hours of driving (20hr of a night) hopefully in all conditions and then the driver will at least have that before they get behind a wheel solo.

    I still think that you can't ban 4x4's from built-up areas, and you certainly can't penalise those that can't afford to have 2 cars.

    I'd love to have a zippy little car for built-up area driving, but you know what? - not practical and certainly not affordable, plus on the open road, (such as I drive) zippy little town cars can't hack it either. I used to drive a V8 because of the towing capacity, but it only allowed 1800kg towing, so we had no choice but to upgrade to a car that enabled the towing of 2200kg. That's why we have a 4x4

    It's been a wonderful discussion and certainly enjoyable

    Thank-you - keep it up

  9. Ban big families too! (joking, joking, joking)

    I think there is an issue with incompetent drivers off-road in 4WD too- many deaths in Qld/NT? tourists lose control and tip.

    I did know about the log book for P platers. Issue is, they write it themselves and parent signs? Easy to cheat and doesn't require time with instructor. I know a system like Germany's with learners only taught by instructor, classroom lessons and defensive driving practice would be expensive. However sone could be done at school and there's always lots of "safety camera" revenue that should be invested in making it safer on the roads.

    I do not at all think drivers like yourself should be penalized for owning or using your only vehicle, 4WD in the city. You won't change my mind about disliking the far-too-common-shiit-driver-soccer-mum's needlessly invading the road in far more metal than they can handle to drop off 1-2 kids at school. Have a look at the primary schools at drop off time! It's riciculous! And not many families, especially in the city, have more than 2 kids

    Of course you need that type of car- just like I'd be a damn fool in taking my Golf into the outback :) I love the Toyota Border Control ad! Seen it?

    I've enjoyed the conversation too Heather :)

  10. QLD/NT there is a greater ratio of 4x4 to suburban cars because of the territory and weather up there. So that would be an obvious conclusion.

    Log books - yes I've heard that there is some falsification going on - but in saying that I know that the 200hrs my daughter did was ever minute her own, and I’m sure most parents would ensure the same.

    How can you stop me being penalised for owning/driving a 4x4, one rule for the goose, one rule for the gander? Governments never work like that, they only see how much money they can skim from those that can least afford it (often large families)

    I've seen a Toyota corolla in the outback coped well too - apparently the crocs took a dislike to it, but hell that's what shotguns were for (yes, this was 15yrs ago!)

    But seriously there are town cars and there are country cars, I live in the country and I drive a car suitable for that terrain.

    I completely agree - (as per original post) Soccer mums don't need/require a big car, but how can you prevent it? You can’t and that is the whole crux of the argument.

  11. In Qld I think, there's been a few tourists crashing killing several- Google 4WD Australia and you'll find. I really don't know what could be done about it.

    I still believe learners need at least some professional training. Fully support the gov partly fund this, do something useful with camera revenue.

    Really agree there's not much that can be done to rid the roads of the bad drivers that don't need their 4WD in the city, which I am disappointed about. This is why I believe improving education and skills of all drivers is important and believe it will make roads safer. Of course, better roads, better separation of traffic and pedestrians, more bike tracks, public transport, are all needed too... In an ideal world hey....

  12. ideal world - you said it Andrea.

    Tourists always crash cars - even sedans - like being on the wrong side of the road, after flying for 18hrs straight then getting behind the wheel of a car then forgetting you're in AU and drifting onto the wrong side of road on a blind corner - happens far more often than is reported ;)

    No matter how much training/learning/educating is done, people will ALWAYS find a way NOT to obey the laws. I could cite many examples, and I'm sure you canr ecall one very recent case, involving a mother and boot. How much education is enough? - How little education is too little, how much is too much?

    You can't save every fool - no matter the situation, it's just not possible, the pity is when the fool takes out an innocent :(

    That makes it harder for everyone.