Aussies fume over annoying trend on our roads: 'Getting silly'

Despite rising fuel costs and energy concerns, the popularity of large American utes and SUVs is increasing – but there's a growing backlash.

Aussie motorists are increasingly annoyed about their local roads being overrun with popular American SUVs and oversized utes that are taking up parking spaces and becoming a hazard.

Despite rising fuel prices and the knowledge that vehicle emissions are damaging to the environment, demand for larger cars is increasing and their popularity is leading to calls for state governments to review how they are allowed to be used.

One Melbourne resident shared their frustration on social media this week, posting a picture of an extra large Ram ute taking up two car spots in a shopping centre car park as the vehicle's tray was too large to fit into a conventional spot.

"The size of these things is getting a little silly," they complained online.

A photo of a large white SUV spotted in the car park of a Melbourne shopping centre.
The large white Ram spotted in the car park of a Melbourne shopping centre taking up two parking spaces. Source: Reddit

That driver is just one of many who have vented about the Americanised trend, saying Australian cities don't have the space for such oversized cars.

"Melbourne is a state capital with limited space already, we cannot allow these monstrosities to be the same as regular cars," one person agreed.

"There are still waaay too many people driving these 'for the convenience of needing to haul something' when 99.99% of the time they're just getting groceries, or using it as a daily driver," another said.

Why are we seeing more oversized cars?

In 2022, close to 8,000 American pick-up trucks or utes were sold in Australia, which is set to increase by the end of this year, according to Shell Australia.

Although "personal preference" is one of the reasons people are buying larger cars, Monash University lecturer Julian O'Shea says there are also fewer smaller cars on sale.

"These [larger] cars are more lucrative for the sellers, there's more margin on an expensive kind of pick-up truck vehicle, so they're making more of them," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"If you went to a dealership now, there'd be a lot fewer sedans, and minivans and hatchbacks then there were years ago — there's just less choice available."

A photo of a black Ram truck taking up too much space at the Chadstone shopping centre carpark in Melbourne.
A black Ram truck taking up too much space at the Chadstone shopping centre car park in Melbourne. Source: Reddit

Are bigger cars safer?

Some also believe they are much safer in bigger cars, which is certainly not the case for those on the receiving end of any crash that may occur.

"Due to the shape of the vehicles, they've got this flat grill, that means if you get hit by one, you're more likely to be hurt and injured," Mr O'Shea said.

He also said the "visibility" for those driving in large SUVs is "really poor," making it harder for pedestrians to be seen on crossings.

Transport accidents are the most common cause of death among children aged 1 to 14, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Mr O'Shea added that the climate impacts were much bigger with SUVs, which are the second-largest contributor to the increase in global CO2 emissions since 2010, according to the International Energy Agency.

How should Aussie cities tackle problems caused by SUVs?

Given that CBDs "aren't getting any bigger" but their populations are, Mr O'Shea believes new policies need to be made to address safety and environmental concerns around the increasing number of these larger vehicles.

"The question becomes, how do we use this space? If we want to make our carparks bigger, we get fewer of them, we lose space for bike lanes, we lose space for parks, we lose space for shops," he said.

"Some ideas that different countries are using that we could look into are higher parking fees for these cars, which cause more damage to the road because they're so much heavier," he continued.

"And just making more spaces available for other groups. So saying, 'look, if these cars exist, that's fine, but it's probably inappropriate for them to be around schools, or to be inside our CBD where space is at a premium'."

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