Queenslanders are demanding 4WDs be banned from shopping centres and school pick-up zones because of 'danger' to other traffic and pedestrians.
CANBERRA - The simmering war between car drivers and owners of four-wheel-drives has again broken to the surface of Australian roads, with new calls for bans and tighter restrictions on the big sports utilities that continue to take a growing share of city and suburban streets.
The sniping between the two is not new, but it remains as politically sensitive as it was more than a decade ago, when members of Paul Keating's dying Labor Government tried to win favour by proposing new taxes for the nation's four-by-fours.
They called them Toorak tractors, a reference to their prolific use by the wealthy and privileged of Melbourne's moneyed elite.
But they had overlooked an even greater mushrooming in the garages of suburbia. The proposal vanished overnight.
Now, in Brisbane, more than 19,000 Queenslanders have again taken up the cudgel, presenting a petition to Parliament demanding four-wheel-drives be banned from shopping centres and school pick-up zones because of their alleged greater danger to both other traffic and pedestrians.
More, the petition says, unless they are working vehicles four-by-fours should be charged higher registration fees to compensate for their greater impact on the environment through the "excessive amount of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from [their] use".
Premier Anna Bligh's Labor Government will not be in a rush to agree to the demands, given the proliferation of four-wheel-drives and the speed with which other governments have gone to ground whenever similar proposals have been made.
Four years ago New South Wales Deputy Coroner Jacqueline Milledge had urged action against four-by-fours following an inquest into the death of a 5-year-old girl killed by a four-wheel-drive in the ground of a Sydney school.
Milledge wanted the vehicles banned from stopping within 200m of primary schools.
She also urged the introduction of a special licence for four-by-fours weighing more than two tonnes.
The NSW Government would not touch the proposal.
About the same time a research paper by the federal parliamentary library concluded that four-wheel-drives "can be dangerous to other drivers", and that when they were around "it can be wise to avoid travel in smaller cars".
"Marketed as sporty, safe and fashionable, 4WDs are popular but pose risks to all, especially if they carry bull-bars on their front," the paper said.
It quoted earlier studies by Monash University's accident research centre which found that while reducing an occupant's chances of death or serious injury by four in 1000, four-wheel-drives increased the chance of killing or injuring others by 11 in 1000.
The nation's car drivers have no doubts.
Recent research by insurer AAMI found that more than three-quarters of passenger car drivers believed four-wheel-drives did not belong in the city, and 75 per cent believed that while safer for their occupants, four-by-fours were more dangerous for other road users.
Two-thirds were intimidated when driving close to a four-by-four, and 66 per cent thought they should pay higher registration fees.
But AAMI also found that there was no evidence that four-wheel-drives were more frequently involved in road accidents.
Instead, a review of claims for the year to July showed four-by-four drivers claimed for fewer crashes than passenger car drivers.
DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION
* More than 19,000 Queenslanders have presented a petition to Parliament demanding four-wheel-drives be banned from shopping centres and school pick-up zones.
* They also want higher registration fees for private owners to compensate for the vehicles' greater impact on the environment.
* Recent researchers found that more than three-quarters of passenger car drivers believed four-wheel-drives did not belong in the city, and two-thirds were intimidated when driving close to a four-by-four.
* The research found there was no evidence that four-wheel-drives were more frequently involved in road accidents.