It’s time for quad bike manufacturers to rollover on safety

Seventeen Australians have died this year from quad bike accidents, also known as all terrain vehicles or ATVs. Flickr/sharkbait

The tragic quad-biking death of an 11-year-old boy from northwest Victoria on Monday takes the 2011 death toll from all terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents to 17.

The boy reportedly died after his ATV overturned while he was herding cows.

This accident shouldn’t have happened but it’s part of a growing trend of injury and deaths associated with these widely-used farming vehicles.

Data from the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety shows the number of deaths from the use of these vehicles has risen in the past decade from around eight to 10 a year, to 14 deaths in 2010.

The industry continues to recommend their traditional rider-education program as the panacea to the problem.

But while I’m unaware of any Australian evaluations of these programs, they seem to be having little effect on safety.

Design flaws

Around 280,000 ATVs are currently in use in Australia and the number is rapidly rising. Their popularity is based on their accessibility, ease of use, and low maintenance – they’re effectively substitutes for horses for all manner of farming and recreational needs.

No one denies their functionality and usefulness. But the industry is yet to update their design to improve their crashworthiness and handling.

The problem is that quad bikes can roll over and crush the driver, which highlights the need for crush protection devices (CPD) or rollover protection systems (ROPS) to save lives.

Researchers have found around half of ATV fatalities are associated with rollovers – a figure that, surprisingly, is disputed by some manufacturers.

Manufacturers haven’t improved the safety of ATVs. Flickr/zzathras777