The 4WD Debate
  |  First Published: November 2005

There have been a lot of negative reports in the media recently regarding the risks to ‘public health’ from four-wheel-drive owners. As reluctant as I am to join debates like these, some of the claims were just so absurd that I thought it was time to add another point of view.

We’ve all read and heard the sensationalist reports telling us how dangerous four-wheel-drives are, how environmentally destructive they are, how much room they take up on the road, how much fuel they consume, how they run over children every day of the week and how they scare other motorists with their menacing bullbars and spotlights. Give me a break!

And now, not content with just attacking the vehicles, the media have turned their attention on the drivers. And haven’t they come up with some beauties!

One conclusion, drawn during an observational study in London (not Queensland) is that ‘four-wheel-drive owners appear to take more risks on the road because they believe their vehicles are safer’ (note ‘appear to take more risks’ not ‘do take more risks’) and that ‘people who drive four-wheel-drive vehicles are more likely to talk on hand-held mobile phones and less likely to wear seatbelts’.

They claimed that ‘the results supported the conclusion’ and tried to justify its relevance to us in Queensland with the statement ‘While the study wasn't done in Australia, the mindset that appears to influence four-wheel-drive owners in London would, we believe (we believe?!), extend to all other countries, because the factors generating that mindset are the same."

What a load of rubbish.

In Queensland, owning a modern four-wheel-drive provides us (and our kids, elderly or disabled family members) with a safe, comfortable and convenient way to explore our magnificent country, not a reason to take more risks on the road. Thousands of our readers – men and women from every demographic – use their four-wheel-drives to enjoy Queensland's many natural attractions that are inaccessible to conventional vehicles, not to drive around sans seatbelt, mobile phone to ear trying to have an accident!

Another biased report, by the Australia Institute, attacked ‘city men who own four-wheel drives’, calling them ‘fatter, more aggressive and more selfish than other drivers’. The report stated that ‘Almost half the country's large four-wheel-drives are owned by people in capital cities and two-thirds are driven by men’, who it claimed ‘dislike homosexuals, have little respect for indigenous culture and think disadvantaged people get too much support’. They found a ‘typical’ urban four-wheel-drive owner was a male in his 40s or 50s who amongst other things ‘was more likely to be more obese than the overall population’. Report co-author Clive Hamilton said, ‘City drivers of large four-wheel-drives are less community-orientated than other drivers’ and that ‘Large four-wheel-drives are less safe, less fuel-efficient and less welcome on the road than many other vehicles, yet the profile shows their owners are more aggressive and less concerned about the impact of their decisions on others’.

How inappropriate and myopic to generalise Aussie four-wheel-drive owners as homophobic, overweight racists who are unsafe and inconsiderate drivers. Highlighting the personal values and health status of a small sample group of four-wheel-drive owners is completely irrelevant and paints a highly distorted picture of people who love the freedom and excitement that comes with owning these vehicles.

It's a sad fact that aggressive and dangerous drivers will always exist, irrespective of the vehicle they drive. There will always be idiots on our roads. However, in Queensland, from my experience at least, four-wheel-drive owners are not fat, selfish and bigoted motorists. They’re everyday people who choose to drive a vehicle that provides a means to escape the pressures of modern society. Surely that can’t be a bad thing?

I’m eager to know QFM readers’ thoughts on this issue. If you’d like to let me know your opinion, send an email to --e-mail address hidden--

1) This is why I drive a four-wheel-drive! Camping on the beach at spectacular Cape Melville on Cape York Peninsula.

2) Try towing your tinnie up Teewah Beach with a Commodore!

3) The average family station wagon can’t provide a safe and comfortable way to visit the amazing Simpson Desert.

4a4b4c) All of these signs are beside roads in Southeast Queensland. What if you’re not in a four-wheel-drive?

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