Quad bikes safer than mo­tor­cy­cles

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery - By JEANETTE MAXWELL

QUAD bikes have been in the news fol­low­ing two deaths and sev­eral in­juries over the Christ­mas and New Year pe­riod.

Most in­com­pre­hen­si­ble was the in­ci­dent in which 6-year-old Ash­lee Shor­rock suf­fered se­ri­ous in­juries af­ter be­ing flung from a quad bike that veered off a Hawke’s Bay road late at night.

What were she and the four adults also in­jured in the crash do­ing on the bike in the first place?

How­ever, while it may not seem like it from the in­tense me­dia cov­er­age, quad bike deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries re­main rel­a­tively rare de­spite the 100,000 machines in New Zealand.

While quad bikes are dan­ger­ous if mis­han­dled and the farm toll is se­ri­ous and must come down, we fear that politi­cians will re­spond to the me­dia cov­er­age by jump­ing at ‘‘so­lu­tions’’.

In one episode of Bri­tain’s Yes Prime Min­is­ter, a prime min­is­ter wor­ried about his low pop­u­lar­ity de­cides to act on a press-fu­elled scan­dal.

The Cab­i­net sec­re­tary asks when he reached such a mo­men­tous de­ci­sion, to which the prime min­is­ter replies: ‘‘to­day, when I read the pa­pers’’.

While we grieve for Rakaia’s Hamish Bax­ter, found ly­ing be­side his quad bike on Jan­uary 5, there is no surge in farm-re­lated quad bike deaths.

New Zealand has more quad bikes than reg­is­tered mo­tor­cy­cles.

Mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ers must be li­censed and their bikes reg­is­tered and war­ranted. Po­lice en­force hel­met use and other road laws.

Yet, de­spite such a heav­ily reg­u­lated en­vi­ron­ment, 42 peo­ple were killed in ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing mo­tor­cy­cles last year. More than 1000 were in­jured. When it comes to quad bikes, there seem to have been seven quad bike fa­tal­i­ties in 2012.

If I am hes­i­tant, it is be­cause statis­tics take time to fi­nalise.

Of those seven quad bike deaths, five ap­pear to have been farm-re­lated and two recre­ational in na­ture. f the five farm- re­lated deaths, one was not re­lated to the ve­hi­cle. Hor­ren­dously, it was caused by elec­tro­cu­tion.

While ‘‘850 peo­ple on av­er­age’’ are said to be in­jured on quad bikes each year, the num­ber of se­ri­ous harm no­ti­fi­ca­tions in 2011-2012 was pro­vi­sion­ally 84.

The quad bike fo­cus in­di­cates sec­tions of our me­dia seem to have be­come de­sen­si­tised to the larger road and drown­ing tolls.

Safety also hap­pens to be split be­tween var­i­ous agen­cies and min­istries, with each pur­su­ing a dif­fer­ent agenda with fi­nite re­sources.

If we are to reg­u­late quad bikes then it begs the ques­tion of why and what.

On the farm, speed is less of a fac­tor than loss of con­trol and rollover.

While

Orollover

pro­tec­tion

or ROPS has been looked into, the con­sen­sus is that it takes as many lives as it saves.

Rollover pro­tec­tion changes weight distri­bu­tion and can re­quire har­nesses, re­strict­ing the abil­ity to ride safely.

Newer quad bikes are su­pe­rior in de­sign and have added safety features.

There are also other ve­hi­cle choices, but to Fed­er­ated Farm­ers, the big three is­sues are hel­mets, ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing.

While un­con­nected to farm­ing, Water Safety New Zealand’s Matt Clar­idge de­liv­ered com­pelling ar­gu­ments for ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing on Ra­dioLive late last year.

Asked if ‘‘water po­lice’’ were needed to en­force life­jacket use, Mr Clar­idge said what was needed was a change in mind­set.

He also said ed­u­ca­tion would de­liver the big­gest gain.

Mr Clar­idge added that a seat­belt did not pro­tect peo­ple from reck­less driv­ing but ed­u­ca­tion helped them to make bet­ter de­ci­sions.

Peo­ple need to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity, they need to learn how to ac­cu­rately as­sess risk and be re­spon­si­ble around chil­dren.

A hel­met will not save you in a quad bike ac­ci­dent if that bike is pushed be­yond its lim­its. ust as with water safety, quad bike safety is about ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing to get farm­ers and recre­ational users to own the is­sue.

As quad bike safety mes­sag­ing is aimed at farm­ers my fear is that week­end en­thu­si­asts are be­ing missed.

Adult quad bikes are big and pow­er­ful machines de­mand­ing phys­i­cal ma­tu­rity and train­ing to safely use them.

De­spite the many hours a farmer will sit on one, they re­main rel­a­tively safer than a mo­tor­cy­cle.

If we are to have a real dis­cus­sion about reg­u­la­tion then we need to know why and what we are reg­u­lat­ing for.

J

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