Quad-bike deaths spark calls for urgent safety action

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 15 September 2020

Quad-bike riders urged to act now ahead of new safety laws.

RACV is urging quad bike owners not to delay upgrading safety measures following a spike in fatalities in the first six months of the year.

Last month the Australian Competition Consumer Commission reported that 14 people, including three children, had died in quad bike related accidents in Australia in the six months to June, compared to eight in the previous 12 months.

Quad bike

By October 2021, all new quad bikes must be fitted with roll bars. Image: ATV Lifeguards.

The news comes as new laws are due to come into force on 11 October requiring that all quad bikes must carry a safety sticker warning about the degree of slope at which the vehicle will overturn. But tougher laws requiring all quad bikes to be fitted with life-saving roll bars will not come into force until October 2021. 

RACV general manager of corporate affairs, Bryce Prosser urged quad bike owners not to wait until the new laws come into force to fit roll bars to their vehicles. “While RACV welcomes new laws to make roll-bars mandatory, it is disappointing these laws will not come into force till October next year,” he says. 

“Roll bars save lives and prevent devastating injuries so people should not delay upgrading their quad bikes until the new laws come in – especially when you consider that 150 Australians, including 23 three children have died as a result of quad bike accidents since 2011.” 

He says the grim fatality figures tell only part of the story; an average of six people go to hospital every day in Australia as a result of quad-bike related injuries.  

The Australian Competition Consumer Commission deputy chair Mick Keogh says quad bikes have an inherent instability that causes them to tip over. He says eight fatalities so far this year involved roll overs.  

Roll bars save lives and prevent devastating injuries so people should not delay upgrading their quad bikes until the new laws come in.

“For many years, manufacturers have been claiming rider behaviour is the major reason for the number of deaths and injuries,” he says. “Their aim has been to shift the focus away from the unsafe design of quad bikes.

He says some groups opposing the new laws have mounted a scare campaign of misinformation ahead of the new safety laws which has led to a rise in number of quad bikes sold in Australia. 

He says there have been suggestions that quad bike manufacturers will stop selling in Australia due to the new safety requirements. But he says if any manufacturers do pull out of the market others “will willingly step in to provide the safer quad bikes”.

“We’ve also heard nonsense claims that improved quad bike stability and rollover protection devices, as required under the safety standard, will increase fatalities as riders will have a false sense of security.” 

“If this argument was applied to the design of cars, none of the modern safety features would be available, and the nearly 70 per cent decline in road fatalities since the mid-1970s would not have occurred.”

Mick says the design limitations of quad bikes mean many people, including experienced operators, are seriously injured or killed, even when using them within manufacturers’ guidelines.  

Research from the University of New South Wales indicates that almost half of quad bike accidents involved riders who had 20 or more years of experience, while less than two per cent of accidents involved an operator with less than three years’ experience.