Australian four-wheel-drive (SUV) owners should have a special licence and be made to sit off-road driving skill tests before taking to the city streets, a federal parliamentary report recommends, according to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The report on national road safety, tabled in Parliament, reportedly urges the federal government to develop a national licensing system, targeting owners of four-wheel-drives and caravans.

“Driving conditions in these vehicles are sufficiently different from those in standard cars to warrant such an approach,” the report says, according to the SMH.

One submission, published in the report, says four-wheel-driving tests would ensure drivers understood and could competently handle their off-road vehicles in all conditions, the paper said.

SUVs account for about 20% of Australia’s new car sales, but as the love affair with off-road vehicles grows so too does the number of four-wheel-drives involved in fatal crashes, research has shown, the SMH said.

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The paper added that analysis published last year by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found that over the nine years to 1998 the number of fatal four-wheel-drive crashes rose 85%.

An accredited trainer with the Australian National Four Wheel Drive Council, Norman Bee, told the paper he was supportive of extra training for drivers who used their four-wheel-drives for recreational purposes.

But Bee, head of the council’s South Australian driver training unit, reportedly said he did not think drivers should have to undergo training if they did not buy their four-wheel-drive to drive off-road.

“I don’t think you can make the training mandatory for those type of people.”

The SMH said the chief executive of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Harold Scruby, has been pushing for special licences for all four-wheel-drives over two tonnes for several years.

“What they really are are trucks made to look like cars,” Scruby told the newspaper. “People who drive trucks don’t have standard licences, so why should drivers of LandCruisers and Pajeros have standard licences?”