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Dec 23, 2011

Qld. Government 'reforms' quad bike riders.

Since the introduction of quad bikes onto the scene, farmers have found them a valuable tool of the trade. With most of the capabilities of the standard ag-bike, the offer the additional benefit of better load carrying ability and the potential of being fitted with useful devices such as spray tanks and so on. As with any item of equipment there are risks involved in its use and a number of injuries and fatalities have occurred over the years.

As result Worksafe Qld has had an advisory out for some time in relation to safety in this field. Unfortunately the Bligh government has decided to ‘be at the forefront’ of regulation and is moving to establish mandatory standards to be adopted. Designed to appeal to the sensitivities of city folk and the self righteous, the blurb surrounding this move paints a grim picture.

According to Industrial Relations Minister, Cameron Dick, swathes of ‘rural workers’ are being cut down in their prime by irresponsible use of agricultural quad bikes and the only solution to this uncontrolled massacre is government regulation and heavy fines. Most of those ‘workers’ are the landholders themselves. Curiously, the actual figures tell a different story, although they vary depending on the source.

According to the governments own figures in the seven year period 02 – 09, 101 riders and 15 passengers were killed Australia wide. It also states that in 11+ years since July 2000, ‘about’ 30 riders and passengers were killed, (just under three per year for the whole state.) In the news report on the proposal it is stated that there have been 12 fatalities in Queensland since 2002.

These measures may be counterproductive, while the compulsory nature removes the element of choice to meet the individual’s assessment of what is needed. In the case of helmets, assuming the higher figure here of thirty to be correct, if they were to prevent all of the 35% of deaths by head injuries it would amount to ten lives in 11 years.

There is a higher danger of contracting skin cancer through not wearing a broad brimmed hat, and the impairment of peripheral vision could result in a higher accident rate. More could be achieved by banning short sleeves, but lets not give old Nan any ideas.

The issue of roll over protection is even more nebulous. Statistics point to somewhere around 43% of accidents involve rollovers, a proportion of which involve crush injuries. If we are to assume that all of them crush the victims, then that would amount to roughly 13 - 14 out of the thirty deaths over the eleven years. Advocates point to a reduction of 72% in tractor fatalities due to the use of roll bars.

Were this to hold true for quads, it would reduce the figure to nine or ten over eleven years. The problem with these figures is that quads tend to travel a lot faster than tractors, casting some doubt on the validity of this comparison. The addition of a roll bar to a vehicle with an inherent tendency to be top heavy or have a high centre of gravity as it is called would necessarily make it more so and more prone to rolling.

While governments are fond of proclaiming that, “if it saves one life then it is all worthwhile,” it is probably best to keep this to an advisory and allow users, who after all are the people with the experience in the field, to decide for themselves what is best for them.

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