The tragic death of a 13-year-old girl in a quad bike accident at Kembla Grange on Wednesday has sparked a renewed call for greater safety measures surrounding the manufacturing and operation of the vehicles.
Researchers from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS) said quad bikes were becoming increasingly recognised as potentially dangerous machinery on Australia’s rural properties,
outranking tractors 2:1 as the leading cause of death on farms.
Wednesday’s accident at Kembla Grange, in which accomplished equestrian Molly Lord, 13, was killed while riding the family’s quad bike, has renewed debate over the design of the bikes and whether the fitting of crush protection or roll devices should become mandatory.
Three other children on board the quad bike were uninjured in the crash.
ACAHS director Dr Tony Lower said quad bikes presented an ‘‘illusion of stability’’ but had been found to be very unstable, especially when carrying multiple people or additional fixtures, such as spray packs.
“This really reinforces the need for design improvements to reduce the risk of death and serious injury when quad bikes roll,’’ he said.
‘‘Part of the problem is that these vehicles have an ‘illusion of stability’ but as a Victorian coroner said, they are ‘prone to roll over’ and when they do, they kill and maim people.”
Mr Lower urged property owners to rethink whether quad bikes were the safest machine for the job, saying often two-wheel motorbikes were safer, especially for children.
Mr Lower said agricultural groups had been fighting ‘‘a long and bitter battle’’ against quad bike manufacturers to make crush protection devices mandatory on all new vehicles sold.
‘‘Many people believe these devices should come standard; there’s certainly evidence out there that they work in reducing injury rates,’’ he said.
“It is an absolute insult to quad bike users and particularly to those families that have lost loved ones in rollovers that the manufacturers and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) simply continue to defend the indefensible.
‘‘There is an urgent need to address this issue through better design of the quad bikes themselves and also ensuring crush protection devices are fitted.’’
However, the FCAI has maintained its position against the use of such safety devices.
‘‘FCAI and its all-terrain vehicle members continue to oppose the fitment of any form of roll over protection (ROPs) on quad bikes,’’ the organisation’s website said.
‘‘This is based on investigations that show ROPs can cause more injuries than they prevent.’’
ACAHS figures show an average of 13 people died in quad bikes accidents each year between 2001 and 2010.
Twenty-three people were killed in 2011, and 10 have been killed in the first half of 2012.