Rollover protection or not?

By Beverley Ford

THERE are about 190,000 quad bikes in Australia, used in workplaces, for recreation, adventure tours and competitive racing.

Around 16,000 are purchased each year, and quad bike accidents result in an average of 16 deaths a year in Australia alone.

They also send six people a day to hospital emergency departments, with an average of two requiring hospitalisation for serious injuries.

In March the Australian Corruption and Crime and Commission (ACCC) produced a report on proposed major changes to improve the safety of quad bikes.

To help reduce the deaths and injuries associated with the machines, the ACCC proposed a mandatory safety standard that they say
• adopts the US standard
• introduces a safety star-rating system, so that safer vehicles get a higher rating
• requires manufacturers to integrate an operator protection device (OPD), such as a crush protection device or roll over protection (ROP) device in the design of new quad bikes, and
• imposes minimum performance tests.

Quad bikes are often crucial to efficient farmwork.

When issuing the report ACCC commissioner Mick Keogh said that a mandatory safety standard incorporating all of these elements was the best option to save lives and make quad bikes safer for everyone.

The recommendation was supported by regional Australia’s most powerful voices, including the National Farmers Federation (NFF), Rural Doctors Association of Australia, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the National Rural Health Alliance, the National Rural Women’s Coalition, the Country Women’s Association of Australia, and the Australian Workers Union.

Disappointed by the federal government’s apparent inaction in legislating to support the recommendations, representatives from these organisations held a demonstration on the lawns of Parliament House on September 10, to share the personal stories of those affected by quad bike rollovers.

NFF president Fiona Simson said that so far this year seven Australians, including children, had lost their lives in quad bike accidents.

Ms Simson said despite the horrifying statistic, the government was stalling on implementing the mandatory fitting of OPDs to all new quad bikes within two years.

“We are at a loss to understand why the government won’t introduce this simple change to save lives,” Ms Simson said.

Are quad bikes as safe and stable as they look?

During Farm Safe Week 2017, Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman said that most people loved riding around on a quad bike.

“However, these bikes accounted for the highest number of deaths and injuries on farms last year (2016) as result of being used for tasks beyond their design limits, towing loads, and riders not wearing helmets.”

The federal government reaction to support for the ACCC recommendations was an unexpected and unusual request that the ACCC conduct a third round of community consultation.

Assistant treasurer Micheal Sukkar, who has responsibility for the ACCC, said he would assess the latest round of consultation and respond in coming months.

Is this reaction from government due to pressure being applied by the major quad bike and ATV manufacturers, Yamaha and Honda?

Both have threatened to withdraw their quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles from the Australian market if ROPs become law.

Honda and Yamaha believe that ROPs don’t improve safety, and that the ACCC’s recommendations include no criteria for what ROPs actually are.

They say that they would have no choice but to withdraw from the quad bike market based on that one item.

In a further complication, reported by the ABC, the United States has referred the proposed Australian regulations to the World Trade Organisation, claiming that it would constitute a barrier to trade.

Is this also due to pressure from manufacturers?

The ACCC and NFF consider that the proposed regulations are not a trade issue but a matter of safety.

Meanwhile, as the bickering continues, more accidents are occurring and more lives are being lost.