The Australia Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety is calling for stronger regulations on quad bike safety after a recent US study reveals that child hospital admissions and Emergency Department visits related to quad bike have been significantly reduced as a result of stricter laws.
The centre’s director Dr. Tony Lower said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and state governments should develop and enforce more proactive legislation.
The study examined the impact of “Seans Laws” introduced in 2010 in the state of Massachusetts, which restricted the use of quad bikes by children <14 years and put other steps in place for those aged 14-18 years.
“This study provides strong support for Australian efforts to minimise deaths and injuries to children,” said Dr. Lower.
“We really need to question the safety of these products, including the inappropriately named youth and child-sized quads that can weigh up to 120kgs.”
“We know that injuries sustained by quads are more severe in nature than those from motorcycles. This is due to the frequency of rollovers and the weight of the vehicles.
“Farm kids are even more highly exposed with 75% of all child quad-related deaths in Australia occurring on-farm, with the majority of these being kids that reside on the property.
“While virtually everyone agrees that kids should not be riding adult-sized quad bikes, we also have several cases involving child-sized quads that have resulted in crush and asphyxiation deaths.”
He said ACCC plays a significant role in ensuring the safety of quad bikes for children and for state governments to develop and enforce more pro-active legislation.
“While the quad manufacturers will resist any attempt to cut into their market share, these results clearly indicate that quads of any size are not suitable for children given their physical and mental maturity. Just like those working in the food industry and in the tobacco sector before that, manufacturers are keen to get kids hooked on their product early, make them brand loyal and develop a customer for life.”
Last month, the centre released figures emphasizing the importance of having focus on quad bike safety. An analysis of Australian media reports in the first nine months of 2017 indicates 45 people have tragically died in on-farm incidents and a further 144 have been involved in non-fatal incidents that were serious enough to make the media.
“The consequences are far-reaching for everyone concerned and yet we know that the vast majority of cases could be prevented,” stated Dr. Lower.
Among the fatalities, quads and tractors are the leading causes of 10 and eight on-farm fatalities respectively in the period, with trucks and other on-farm machinery also featuring commonly. There have also been six fatalities involving children, two of which were related to quad bikes (one-adult/one child-sized).
“While quad manufacturers always point to ride error to avoid any implications regarding the safety of their product, with over 60% of deaths in Australia involving rollovers, the lack of a lateral stability standard and crash protection means not only do they roll all too easily, but when they do, the consequences are often fatal. Because of these design flaws, the margin of error for riding quads is so small that it all often ends in tragedy,” said Dr. Lower.
“We strongly encourage farmers to use other safer vehicles or if continuing to use a quad, then to ensure a crush protection device is fitted, wear a helmet and follow basic riding safety practices.”
A copy of the report is available on www.aghealth.org.au