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11 Oct 2019

BY DR SANDRA HIROWATARI, CHAIR, AMA COUNCIL OF RURAL DOCTORS

Quad bikes are part of the rural landscape – they have been present in every rural setting I can remember. They seem innocent and useful, rounding up stock, travelling to the next off-road location, helping with all sorts of rural chores.

But they are associated with huge numbers of injuries and fatalities. Rural doctors, you know that chill up your spine when the ambulance service radios in a quad bike trauma.

In July 2019, the National Farmers' Federation (NFF), Cattle Council and Rural Doctors Association questioned why legislation requiring all quad bikes to be fitted out with roll bars had not been passed by the Government.

Our AMA Council of Rural Doctors discussed the issue. We support implementing ACCC recommendations on mandatory roll protection on all quad bikes to prevent more deaths on Australian farms.

Since 2001, more than 230 Australians have died in quad bike related accidents, and in the period 2011 to 2018 there were more than 126 deaths from quad bike accidents, an average of 16 people killed per year. Most deaths occurred on farms.

Tragically, many of these victims are children. In the eight years from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2018 there were 128 fatalities, about 11 per cent (14 fatalities) were children aged 11 years of age or under. These numbers need more attention. In comparison, for the same time period, there were two deaths from button batteries. Some are now calling for age restrictions on the use of quad bikes to be introduced

The safety problem with these off-road vehicles is that they roll and the occupant typically dies from crushing-related injuries or asphyxiation.

Data provided by the NFF shows that each year there are more than 650 hospitalisations as a result of quad bike accidents. Every day, an estimated six people present at an emergency department for a quad bike related injury.

There is no available data on exactly what types of injuries present, but from our discussions with the NFF we understand that a significant proportion would result in permanent disability, including quadriplegia and paraplegia.

Australia’s regulator, the ACCC, have estimated the cost of quad-related deaths and injuries to the national economy at more than $200 million.

In March this year, the ACCC issued a report following an 18-month enquiry, concluding that new safety standards should be introduced requiring all new quad bikes to: 

  • Meet the specified requirements of the US or EU quad bike Standards;
  • Be tested for lateral static stability test;
  • Display the angle at which it tips on to two wheels on a hang tag at the point of sale;
  • Have a label affixed alerting the rider to rollover risk;
  • Include rollover safety information in the owner’s manual: and
  • Meet minimum requirements for stability.

So why aren’t these standards being adopted? It seems that quad bike manufacturers have threatened to withdraw from selling these vehicles here if roll bars are mandated.

These bullying tactics are disappointing. These devices save lives. The AMA supports the requirement for mandatory installation of “operator protection devices” to save lives and reduce trauma.

Although there are urban quad bike injuries and fatalities, this is a rural issue. There is more off-road travel, the vast distances to get medical help is our hidden terror, and these quad bikes are part of the armamentarium for our rural and remote communities.

I hope you can join the AMA in advocating for this life saving policy.

 

 

 


Published: 11 Oct 2019