4WD's

30 May 2005, 05:18:57 PM

Reporter: Adene Cassidy

Arif Hajher's 7-year-old son, Shahid, was killed in January this year - hit by a 4WD and tragically, he died in his sister's arms.

Mr. Hajher, a father in grief, is determined to have 4WD's banned from our streets and has this plea. "I can say that I have lost the taste in my life and life is meaningless. I believe they should be at least restricted".

It is certainly not the first time the call to ban 4WD's has been made and says Arif, it won't be the last until the number of fatalities and accidents involving the powerful cars has been reduced.

A similar story and tragedy for 5-year-old Bethany Holder, struck by a 4WD Nissan Patrol in her school grounds. The driver, mother John McLennan, says she also didn't see the little girl and has now vowed to spend the rest of her life trying to improve road safety for children. "I don't think they are a safe vehicle. I don't see the point of having them on city roads", she said.

At the inquest into little Bethany's death, the coroner made several recommendations which have gained momentum and nationwide support - some of these include a 4WD free school zone and even a special licence for 4WD owners.

While some State Governments are now seriously considering the recommendations, it seems the issue of tariffs for 4WD's has been overlooked. The 4WD was originally introduced for farmers so the tariff has been kept at just 5% compared to a 10% tariff on your average family sedan.

The makes these powerful people-movers even more affordable for city drivers.

In 1980 only one in 50 cars purchased was a 4WD but by 1990, it was one in 12. Today it's a staggering one in five, with only a quarter of those drivers buying the car for off-road exploring.

But despite the renewed debate and publicity surrounding these controversial cars, it seems drivers are still oblivious. Footage we took outside several primary schools showed double parking, parking across driveways, ignoring signs - all at peak hour when Australian school kids are at their most vulnerable.

"Most of them, when they feel safer, they don't mind about the safety of others or at least are less careful, that false confidence makes them aggressive drivers - that's what I mean", Arif said.

The government-funded National Black Spot Program website maintains a map of current road black spot projects around Australia at: www.dotars.gov.au/transprog/road/blackspot/current.aspx