You know the culprits – the mums or dads dropping the kids off at school in a 200 Series Cruiser, a vehicle that practically defines off-road credibility, and one that is about as good as it gets when the going gets tough out the back of Bourke. Said Land Cruiser is nicely kitted up, too: snorkel, bull bar, driving lights, roof racks, spare wheel carrier swinging from the rear bumper. A quick glance would trick you into thinking that Sally and Steve Suburban are about to head off on the big one – the ’round Australia trip. The Canning Stock Route is not for the faint-hearted.
Nope. The Suburbans are in fact off to do some shopping after dropping the kids at school. Might stop in for a hair appointment, if you’re lucky. Then it’s back home, where the Toyota will be safely locked up in the garage and out of harm’s way.
There might have been some merit to the safety argument 20 years ago. You know the one: “Bought it to drive the kids around, mate. I feel much safer with them in a big truck. I like the visibility.” But that argument is pretty much redundant now thanks to the safety advances the industry has made across the board, from the smallest cars right up to these urban assault vehicles. That poor Land Cruiser – just begging to get down and dirty out in the bush – is wasted in the city. It’s no different to driving a V8 Supercar to work. Completely out of its element and begging to be used the way its maker intended.
That’s not the least of the issue, either. If you don’t actually know how to drive such a large vehicle, even things like positioning the SUV in a tight lane or side street can be a problem. And that means you’re actually more dangerous to everyone else around you than you would be in a smaller, more manageable vehicle.
Sales of SUVs both large and small keep going up, despite our increasing disinterest in large sedans. Maybe a large 4WD is the new family vehicle? I for one am not exactly thrilled with that development if the requisite driving skills don’t go with it. Just because you like the look of a Mack B-Double semi-trailer doesn’t mean you know how to drive it, does it?