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Quad bike safety plans sparks rift between ACCC and manufacturers

ABC Health logoABC Health 10/06/2019

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Quad bike manufacturers opposing mandatory rollover protection are "playing with lives" according to Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Mick Keogh.

The ACCC is recommending rollover protection devices, otherwise known as crash protection devices or operator protection devices (OPD), be made a mandatory part of the design of quad bikes sold in Australia.

OPDs are normally mounted on the back of the quad bike and are meant to stop the vehicle from rolling on to the rider in an accident.

However, parts of the quad bike industry have been fighting the suggestions, with Honda and Yamaha both threatening to withdraw their quad bikes and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) from the Australian market all together if they become law.

"There is an average of 16 deaths a year from quad bikes, half of those are from rollovers where the person is crushed underneath," Mr Keogh said.

"They are playing with lives in this opposition to providing this sort of protection and we take that pretty seriously."

The comments have been made as the ACCC's public consultation on the recommendations comes to an end.

Honda and Yamaha have both said that OPDs would not improve safety and have both told the ABC that there should be more training to address safety issues.

Since the early 2000s more than 250 people have died in Australia in quad bike related accidents but none of them had an OPD fitted, according to Farmsafe Australia.

On Monday, a 10-year-old boy died after an ATV he was driving rolled on a property on the NSW south coast.

The four-wheeler flipped at Meroo Meadow, about 15 kilometres north of Nowra, trapping the boy underneath.

The boy died at the scene.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

Rollover protection resistance

Yamaha marketing manager Sean Goldhawk said OPDs could cause injuries.

"They can pin you underneath when they roll over, they promote the ATV rolling on their side and most injuries occur when the vehicle is on its side," he said.

"Of course, fitting OPDs is not going to slow anyone down, it's not going to stop you from crashing into a tree, it's not going to stop you from having an accident."

Mr Goldhawk said a UNSW survey of fleet managers showed that riders were more likely to be injured in a rollover when their quad bikes were fitted with an OPD than without.

Also, he said the survey showed that 50 per cent of rollovers with an OPD resulted in a hospital visit compared to 21 per cent of rollovers without an OPD resulting in a hospital visit.

However, the survey itself concluded that the fleet managers believed the OPDs had "prevented injury or more serious injury in 10 of the 12 rollover cases. This survey identified that overall the fleet managers considered the Quadbar generally protective."

Mr Goldhawk said Yamaha was concerned that if it fitted the products, it could be vulnerable to litigation.

"If OPDs become mandatory and they remain to be unsafe we could be up for litigation," he said.

"It's not something we will risk, it's not something we want to risk with our customers. These things do not improve safety and we will not gamble with our customers' lives."

Where's the proof?

Honda Australia Motorcycles and Power Equipment managing director Robert Toscano said if mandatory OPD fitting became law, Honda would have no choice but to pull out of Australia.

"There are a number of parts to the ACCC draft and in most cases we can accept most of those points," he said.

"The final point is that manufacturers must fit a crush protection device and it says similar to a Quadbar or Lifeguard product.

"Firstly those products don't improve safety and secondly there's no real criteria for what they are [in the ACCC's recommendations]. We have no choice but to withdraw based on that one item."

What is the best way to test?

Mr Keogh said the industry had relied on computer modelling, while ignoring real world evidence that OPDs improve safety.

He said an estimated 10,000 quad bikes had been fitted with rollover protection, through incentives provided by various state governments.

"The information arising from that is that none of the quad bikes fitted with that have been involved in an injury or fatality," he said.

"The tourism operators who've applied them have also indicated a dramatic decrease in injuries."

However, Mr Toscano said computer modelling was a reliable way to test rollover risks.

"You can't send someone into a paddock with an OPD on a quad bike into a paddock and say 'go your hardest, see if it hurts you'. You have to do it by simulation," he said.

The ACCC's consultation period ends later today.

If the recommendations pass into law, manufacturers would be required to fit rollover protection to new quad bikes two years after coming in to law.

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