Researchers say New Zealand and Australia should join forces in efforts to reduce quad bike deaths after finding striking similarities in how riders were dying in both countries.

Quad bike safety has increasingly become a major issue for our agricultural sector and lawmakers, with five Kiwis being killed - and 850 injured - on farms each year.

A new study, published today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, drew on coronial records of fatal injuries between 2007 and 2012 to compare patterns.

Of 101 quad-related fatalities, 69 occurred in Australia and 32 in New Zealand, putting rates at 7.3 and 8 annual fatalities per 100,000 vehicles for the countries respectively.


The researchers, from Otago University and the University of Sydney, found many other trends in common.

In both countries, most fatalities involved males, the large majority happened on farms, just over half of the cases were work-related, around a third involved head injuries and helmets were seldom worn.

Most the of work-related fatalities in New Zealand occurred while mustering stock - a rate of 57 per cent - with Australian fatalities spread across travelling, mustering and spraying tasks.

There were also differences in age - over 65s accounted for 30 per cent of Australian cases, but only three per cent, or one person, in New Zealand - although the authors noted Australian farmers were an average 6 years older.

Importantly, around half of fatalities involved bikes rolling over, with 42 per cent of cases in Australia and 53 per cent of cases in New Zealand resulting in crush injuries to the thorax.

"Despite some subtle differences in the primary mechanism of fatal injury, quad rollovers are of primary concern in both countries," they said.

They pointed to a lack of requirements for safety features like roll bars, which led to higher numbers of rollovers and accompanying crush injuries and asphyxiation, and argued their data reinforced the need to address the design of quads and the "high propensity" for rollover.

"Compounding this vehicle design flaw, common farm practices such as carrying passengers and loads contribute significantly to the instability of the quad, even at low speeds, increasing risk of fatal injury."

They concluded by suggesting injury prevention strategies in both countries could be aligned, with a focus on safe design and engineering principle.

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne said her organisation and WorkSafe were already working with counterparts across the Tasman.

"Any studies that come out, we leap on and see what we can glean out of them to help bring our statistics down," she said.

"So there's an information flow both ways on what's working and what's not, but it's still something we can do more on, no doubt."

Close attention was being paid to Victoria, which recently became the first state to require mandatory rollover protection to be fitted to quad bikes used in the workplace, including farms.

"We are waiting with bated breath to see what sort of results that turns up."

Fatal quad bike factors


Australia, 81 per cent; New Zealand, 69 per cent

On farm:

Australia, 67 per cent; New Zealand, 66 per cent

Rollover as main cause:

Australia, 54 per cent; New Zealand, 52 per cent

Presence of slope:

Australia, 43 per cent; New Zealand, 70 per cent