OPINION: SUVs in the city debate — 4WDs make carparks a nightmare to navigate

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Are there too many 4WDs on our city roads?
Camera IconAre there too many 4WDs on our city roads? Credit: WA News

I hate big cars and I cannot lie. You other drivers can’t deny. That many of the countless four-wheel-drives you see on city roads probably haven’t touched beach sand or driven on an off-road track.

They are taking over our cities which perhaps aren’t equipped for their size.

Case in point, carparks. Especially those built decades ago when sedans were the dominant car type.

Like with Northgate, which is a nightmare to navigate.

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Get ready to do a 13-point turn if you’re trying to reverse out of that box (usually with big 4WDs either side and behind you).

If there was ever a genuine case for road rage, it’s right there.

Now I should confess that I drive a 4WD, but not by choice. It’s a work car. I’m not complaining that I’m lucky enough to have a work car.

But I have always driven a smaller car and never been a super confident reverser or parallel parker and in a big car those tasks make me feel like a nervous learner driver all over again.

It’s obvious to anyone that 4WDs are incredibly popular in the cities. Last year, according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, just under half of all new cars sold in Australia were SUVs. Their 49.6 per cent market share most likely increased from 45.5 per cent during COVID because families wanted to travel and their only option was to hit the road and tackle the long and vast distances between WA destinations.

I am sure that many people buy 4WDs and use them in off-road settings, for the purpose for which they are manufactured. Likewise I am convinced that many 4WD owners purchase these cars for show, for prestige, for ego. Whether it’s to keep up with the Joneses or to feel superior on the road – their reasons have nothing to do with a love of 4WD-ing or camping.

Yes, every road user has a right to use our roads. But size should not matter. You shouldn’t feel you have right of way, or an excuse to pull out or reverse in front of another car just because you sit up higher behind the steering wheel.

And I’m not for one minute suggesting that all SUV drivers are egotistical, selfish drivers. There are plenty of awful drivers going around in sedans. But I feel there is a perceived road hierarchy, which I don’t like. Just like the car versus cyclist debate, the 4WD versus sedan debate gets plenty of us riled up.

It should come down to respect for your fellow road users, regardless of what vehicle they are driving. That could be wishful thinking, but I hope not. Or maybe carpark bays will miraculously one day soon be made bigger to accommodate our changing car sizes.

Because one of life’s certainties I’ve found, apart from death and taxes, is every time you park with two empty spaces besides you, you will emerge to find your car wedged between two giant 4WDs.

I know, I hear you. First World problems.

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