ATV, SSV deaths result in law change and market exodus

ATVs are a leading cause of injury and fatalities on Auastralian farms

Craig Duff

Posted December 30, 2021


All ATVs are required to be fitted with improved safety standards, which is causing a major disruption in the all-terrain market.

More than 20 people have died using quad bikes _ all-terrain vehicles and side-by-side vehicles _ so far this year. Following these tragedies, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) is cautioning people to play it safe over the holiday period.

The FCAI says all-terrain vehicles and side-by-side vehicles are versatile farm machinery, but riders should be cognisant of their potential to roll, resulting in serious injuries, or worse.

FCAI chief executive Tony Weber notes that there have been 21 deaths in 2021 involving All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and Side-by-Side Vehicles (SSVs) to the end of November.

“Alarmingly, it appears that in many incidents involving SSVs, the occupants had not used the seatbelts, doors or netting that are ‘built in’ safety devices designed to reduce harm. The result – the occupants were ejected or crushed in the incident,” Mr Weber says.

“These vehicles can be outstanding workhorses and be a great tool on a big property or worksite. However, there is no doubt that incidents involving these vehicles are totally avoidable if they are driven according to the conditions and all safety protocols are followed.”

Rollover protection

Laws came into effect on October 11, 2021, mandating minimum stability provisions and the installation of operator protection devices, including rollover bars to utility ATVs - as distinct from kids and sports-based quad bikes - based on advice to the government from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The two most common forms of rollover protection for ATVs are a hoop-shaped bar and a single rod, both fitted behind the rider and designed to prevent the weight of the vehicle falling onto the driver in the event of an accident.

“Quad bike accidents are the leading cause of death and injury on Australian farms and the mandatory safety standard will be critical in saving lives,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh says.

“A high proportion of quad bike accidents are due to rollovers, and the additional safety requirements include physical design changes to mitigate rollover risks.

“When it comes to vehicle safety issues, there is no single solution and, of course, safe riding precautions remain extremely important. Quad bike owners should always wear helmets and the right safety gear, complete the necessary training, and never let children ride adult bikes.” 

The new laws also dictate minimum rules for lateral and longitudinal stability. Any ATV sold since October 11 must have a 'minimum tilt table ratio' - the degree to which a quad bike can’t start tipping onto two wheels - of 28.81 degrees and 38.65 degrees respectively.

The issue isn’t purely about those ratios, as farmers operating on slopes of less than those percentages have been known to fit accessories such as sprayers and trailers, that adversely affect the vehicle’s stability.

white mini golf car parked on road surrounded by sand dunes

The FCAI is calling for drivers to be safe over the holiday period. 


Market disruption 

Prior to the introduction of the new regulations, many motorcycle manufacturers, including Honda, Kawasaki, Polaris, Suzuki and Yamaha, vehemently objected to the changes, arguing that mandatory helmets and training were the best option. Australia is now the only country in the world to have government-enforced rules on rollover protection for ATVs.

The same motorcycle manufacturers have now withdrawn their utility quad bikes from sale in Australia as of October 11. 

That withdrawal of the traditional ATV manufacturers has opened the market to new players from China and Taiwan, such as CFMoto, Kymco and TGB, who have happily filled the vacancy.

The major bike makers are however continuing to sell side-by-side vehicles in Australia, , which have a cabin to provide some protection to the occupants from the elements, and in the event of a rollover. 

ATV sales hit a record high in the first nine months of 2021 as farmers bought new machines ahead of the regulations, given there is no requirement to retrospectively fit the rollover devices. Imported second-hand vehicles will still have to comply with the new rules.

FCAI safety guidelines for SSV and ATV use

SSV

  • Operators should be 16 years of age and ideally hold a valid drivers’ licence.
  • Passengers must be tall enough for the seat belt to fit properly and to brace themselves if needed, by placing both feet firmly on the floor and being able to reach the hand hold.
  • Don’t carry more passengers than there are seats available, and never in the cargo area
  • Always wear a helmet, eye protection and other protective gear.
  • Keep doors and side nets closed. Keep your whole body inside the SSV.
  • Stick to off-road areas and don’t use sealed roadways.

ATV

  • Riders must be 16 years of age to operate an adult size ATV.
  • ·Always wear a helmet, eye protection and other protective gear.
  • Never carry a passenger on a single seat ATV.
  • Be trained and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and warnings.
  • Never overload your vehicle and reduce loads on difficult or steep terrain.

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