Quad bike makers take tips from tobacco

By Eileen Goodwin

Last year in New Zealand, four people died using quad bikes, with 28 deaths since 2006. Photo / Thinkstock
Last year in New Zealand, four people died using quad bikes, with 28 deaths since 2006. Photo / Thinkstock

Quad bike manufacturers have adopted the tactics of the tobacco industry to avoid regulations, a University of Sydney academic will tell next week's Safety 2012 World Conference in Wellington.

Speaking from Sydney, Associate Professor Tony Lower said the industry, through funding external research, had convinced regulators not to introduce mandatory roll-over protection.

Industry-commissioned research had demonstrated an increased risk from adding roll-over protection, he said.

Professor Lower contends roll-over protection makes the vehicles safer in the event of an accident.

If possible, farmers should avoid using quad bikes, but if necessary fit crush protection, he recommended.

Quad bike manufacturers operated as an effective lobby to deny the advantages of roll-over protection through jointly funding research which Professor Lower disputes.

"[The manufacturers] all speak with one voice, and basically try and hold the line ... they've obviously taken some good lessons from tobacco in that regard."

There were 23 quad deaths in Australia in 2011, with an average of 13 a year over the past decade. Many more people sustained serious debilitating injuries, he said.

Last year in New Zealand, four people died, with 28 deaths since 2006.

Otago Federated Farmers vice president Mike Lord said quad bikes were a great farm vehicle.

He had seen some examples of poor usage, such as towing large loads, and carrying too many people.

New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says it is neutral on the issue of roll-over protection because of conflicting evidence about its effectiveness.

Auckland-based independent importer Blue Wing Honda's general manager Matthew Rea said the industry's research was independently sourced and reputable.

Honda was a respected, safety-conscious, innovative company, with no interest in making a "quick buck".

Its thinking was "multi-generational", and there was no reason not to institute any safety means possible.

Calling the comparison with the tobacco industry "ridiculous", he said if roll-over protection worked, the quad bike industry would have no hesitation recommending it.

The issue was much more "political" in Australia than in New Zealand, where a pragmatic, practical approach including an education programme seemed to be working.

Roll-over protection was promoted by its manufacturers, who had a vested interest in making it a safety issue, he said.

Yamaha Motor New Zealand marketing and operations manager Peter Payne echoed Mr Rea's sentiments, saying if it worked the quad bike industry would promote roll-over protection.

Next week's four-day safety conference, partly sponsored by the World Health Organisation, involves more than 600 experts in injury prevention.

- Otago Daily Times

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