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With Commissioner for Consumer Protection, David Hillyard
Families, friends and the rural communities in which they live are mourning the deaths of two boys aged under ten who lost their lives recently in separate quad bike accidents in WA and Tasmania. The tragic accidents occurred on farms and involved rollovers, a common set of circumstances when we look at the statistics.
On average, 16 people lose their lives each year in Australia as a result of quad bike accidents with about six people a day suffering injuries that require a visit to the hospital. Most accidents occur on rural properties, more than half are workers, a third are aged over 60 and about ten per cent are aged under ten. Often riders and their passengers are not properly trained and are inexperienced.
While sometimes wrongly described as an ‘all-terrain vehicle’, quad bikes need a skilled and trained rider to operate them safely on uneven ground and someone who is physically able to shift their weight while riding – younger and older riders might find this difficult. High speed and the towing of loads add to the risk, as do vehicles that are not properly maintained.
We recommend that children under the age of 16 do not ride these vehicles but, if they do, parents should ensure that a helmet and protective clothing are used, the child has the physical and cognitive capacity to control the vehicle and is being supervised by an adult.
After conducting extensive research and consultation, the ACCC is currently finalising a mandatory safety standard for quad bikes which will improve their safety. In the meantime, the owners of these vehicles and the properties on which they operate need to consider installing rollover protection devices and adopt other safety measures such as identifying hazardous areas on their property and ensuring users are properly trained and supervised, follow all instructions and heed any warnings.
Operators need to consider if a quad bike is the safest and most suitable vehicle to use on the type of terrain the rider is likely to encounter. Alternative farm vehicles may be safer and more suitable for the job.
Using a quad bike can be convenient and at times fun, but the ‘adventure’ can soon turn into a tragedy if the measures outlined in this article are not put into practice.