RACV calls for tougher quad bike safety regulations

Quad bike parked in a green field.

Sue Hewitt

Posted October 14, 2019

Stickers showing when a quad bike will overturn not enough to save lives, experts warn.

RACV has welcomed new national safety standards for quad bikes but says the improved regulations do not go far enough. Under federal rules announced last week, by October 2020, all quad bikes sold within Australia must carry a sticker warning about the degree of slope at which they overturn. By October 2021, all new quad bikes must be fitted with roll bars.

But RACV general manager of corporate affairs and communications, Bryce Prosser, says the federal government should not delay in making roll bars mandatory.

He says the introduction of warning labels on the bikes will do little to improve safety. “Stickers don't save lives, roll bars do,” he says.

He says WorkSafe took a tough stand three years ago requiring all quad bikes on work sites to be “safe”, including the provision of roll bars.

Bryce says the same rules should apply regardless of where a bike is ridden. “We protect our workers while using these potentially dangerous vehicles, we should be applying the same protections to our children, farmers and people on holiday.”

He says 16 people are killed around the country each year in quad-bike accidents, and many more are seriously injured. Many of these might have been avoided had roll bars been in place. 

Federal assistant treasurer Michael Sukkar, who announced the new safety measures, says that every day six people across Australia attend an emergency hospital department because of a quad-bike accident and at least two of them are admitted with serious injuries.

He is also calling for tighter regulations and has asked state and territory governments to introduce laws that would ban children riding adult-size quad bikes, prohibit passengers on single-person quad bikes and make helmets mandatory.  

“Quad bikes are the leading cause of fatalities in Australia of all consumer products that aren’t regulated,” the assistant treasurer says.

Associate professor Warwick Teague, director of The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne trauma service, also welcomes the government’s new safety standard as a step forward but says more must be done to protect children.

He says children and quad bikes are a “toxic mix”, and that those under 16 should be banned from riding any quad bike, not just adult-sized bikes.

He says about one in six quad-bike fatalities since 2001 have been children. Across Victoria, a child goes to hospital every five days because of quad-bike trauma, he says. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission consulted widely on the safety of quad bikes before presenting the government with its recommendations, including mandatory roll bars. It found that 60 per cent of quad-bike fatalities were caused by rollovers.

ACCC deputy chairman Mick Keogh says about half those killed in quad-bike incidents would have survived if they hadn’t been crushed or pinned by the bike.

“We know that around 60 per cent of quad-bike fatalities are caused by rollovers, and the operator dies from asphyxia in around half of these.”

The National Farmers’ Federation chief executive officer Tony Mahar praised the new safety reforms as “nothing short of life-saving”.

"Quad-bike accidents have already claimed nine lives this year and 230 since 2011, about half from rollovers,” Tony says. 

Earlier this month, WorkSafe announced plans to extend its $600 quad-bike rebate to help farmers fit rollover bars for a further nine months.

Under its quad-bike safety and enforcement campaign WorkSafe inspectors visited farms 1273 times in 2018-19, issuing 339 enforcement notices on the use of quad bikes.

WorkSafe executive director health and safety Julie Nielsen says, “WorkSafe inspectors will issue enforcement notices wherever they see an employer has not taken reasonably practicable steps to reduce the risks of serious injury or death due to quad-bike rollovers”.