Reckless behaviour on ATVs

By Anna Wallis

Safe use of ATVs is in the news again.

ATVs, or four wheelers, have been involved in at least four reported accidents over the holidays, two of them fatal.

It's not surprising given that there are more than 100,000 of the bikes in New Zealand and more to the point, we still use them recklessly.

Most of the bikes are on farms and many are used by children. It's nothing for many kids to jump on a bike and go and muster the back paddock or bring the cows in. Farm children have a sense of independence and mission when asked to do such jobs. And it's fun.

For both adults and children, quad bike accidents don't necessary happen on the steepest hillside, much like tractor accidents. Looking at photographs or film of accidents, the scene can seem innocuous.

It may happen on a small incline, perhaps on the way home after a day's work thinking about something else. Most farmers going through a tricky patch or riding up or down a steep hill are concentrating.

Bikes take energy and skill to ride. Adult bikes at least need a certain weight to work correctly and the rider to know how to balance their weight when riding such vehicles.

And they can weigh a quarter of a tonne.

The jury still seems to be out on roll over bars but much of what is being said about safety is true. Do the courses, wear the gear, follow the manufacturers instructions.

That goes for all users - both recreational and work. Kids on bikes is another matter, and kids on bikes by themselves is an issue at the sharp end of this discussion. One of the fatalities these holidays was a 16-year-old and one of the injured was a six-year-old girl.

Of course no one should be hooning round drunk on bikes at night with a child on board, as was possibly the case with the six-year-old passenger who remains in an induced coma in hospital.

But our familiarity with ATVs - both in the town and country - has bred a contempt for their danger.

Some progress has been made such as the design change which did away with footrests and replaced them with a platform. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the old Department of Labour, is now making on-farm inspections and training courses are far more available and popular.

But this holidays' accident toll shows much more needs to be done.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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