Confusion over safety as quad bike toll rises
New research from James Cook University reveals farmers and pastoralists are confused about quad bike safety, while most manufacturers are resistant to adding safety features to their bikes.
It comes after quads this year officially surpassed tractors as the most dangerous piece of farm equipment, with the majority of fatalities from crush injuries or asphyxia after bikes rolled on riders.
A study from JCU’s Mt Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health and College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Science led by Professor Sabina Knight and Associate Professor Richard Franklin, has found many farmers don’t know who to ask about the dangers of the bikes or how to lessen them.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Professor Knight. “Some farmers believed that horses were the most dangerous form of transport on the farm, followed by two-wheeled motorbikes, followed by quads.”
“In fact it’s completely the opposite. Agriculture is Australia’s most dangerous industry and quad bikes are predominately associated with serious injury and death,” she said.
She said horses wouldn’t deliberately get themselves into danger and the risks of two wheel motorbikes were well known, but quads caught many people unaware because of their ease of use and misleading apparent stability.
The study found some farmers and pastoralists had a marked tolerance for injuries to themselves and accepted calculated risks to children as a part of growing up on a farm.
Dr Franklin said farmers expect kids to take risks. “The participants told us that there is risk in sport, riding horses, if you break an arm that’s how it goes. To them, injury was just a normal part of life.”
“However we know that with often simple strategies many of these injuries can be prevented.”
Dr Franklin said farmers are smart people and it wasn’t about talking down to them. “It has to be a discussion about what level of risk is acceptable, the appropriate ways quads can be used and what can be done to mitigate and prevent harm.”
“Ultimately, it’s about making it safer and making it home. There is not going to be any single magic bullet. Roll bars are one possible solution, as is improving stability. Personal protection equipment and riding skills as well as child safety features will all help.”
The study found attitudes of retailers and manufacturers were powerful influencers among quad bike customers, but the industry’s role in advocating injury prevention and safety activities was minimal, despite being important to ensure the safety of those using quad bikes.
Professor Knight said car makers had vastly improved the safety of their vehicles and it wasn’t beyond quad bike manufacturers to deal with instability problems, give the bikes anti-crush devices and instigate a safety rating system so farmers knew what they were buying.
Dr Franklin and Professor Knight said North Queensland had unique geography and specific ways and environments in which farmers and pastoralists used quads.
They said this was the first time academics had engaged with pastoralists in the region on this important subject and there was anecdotal evidence that the study had helped spark a lively conversation in the broader community.
“What is very clear from our work is that farmers and pastoralists need to have a trusted independent source of information about quad bike safety,” said Professor Knight.
Contacts: Dr Richard Franklin
Professor Sabina Knight
Link to research paper: