Incentives Needed to Help Motorists Into Newer, Safer, Greener Cars


Governments, vehicle manufacturers and dealers, motoring organisations and insurance companies are being urged to co-operate to develop incentives to replace old cars with new or newer models.


Reducing the average age of the cars we drive would cut the number of deaths and injuries from road crashes, lower vehicle emissions and deter vehicle theft, according to a discussion paper produced by an independent taskforce of road safety experts and representatives from federal and state road and transport authorities, motoring and collector car clubs, and the automotive manufacturing and retail industries.


The discussion paper notes that the age of the cars on Australia’s roads increased from an average of 6.5 years to 10.5 years between 1971 and 1995, which is considerably older than in most other developed countries. It quotes studies showing that the risk of being injured in a pre-1970 vehicle is twice as high as in a 1990 manufactured vehicle, and that a 1995 model car is up to 40 per cent more environmentally efficient as one made in 1979.


The taskforce argues that modern cars are not only safer, greener and more fuel efficient than those built in the 1970s and 1980s, they are also less prone to theft and generally cheaper to maintain and operate. But Australian motorists are keeping their cars longer, and the number of cars being scrapped has fallen from five per cent in the 1980s to 3.5 per cent in the 1990s.


The principal barrier preventing more motorists from upgrading their cars has been identified as the high cost. This was demonstrated by the increase in new car sales during the past two years following greater price competition at the lower end of the market. The other major factor, the taskforce says, is the lack of awareness among motorists of the significant advances in vehicle safety and environmental standards, particularly in relation to crashworthiness.


The discussion paper suggests a number of options to help lower the age of Australian cars, including reductions and other changes in taxes affecting car purchase and ownership, information programs to educate motorists on the safety and environmental performance of cars, and the payment of bonuses to encourage the scrapping of old cars. The vehicle scrapping programs would not be aimed at historical or collector cars.

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