The debate over quad bike use is heating up as groups argue
over how further deaths can be prevented.
A spate of quad-bike accidents over the Christmas holiday
period ending in death and injury has led to renewed calls
for better safety around bike use, but involved groups
disagree over what should be done to improve user safety and
who should take ownership of the issue.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said
farmers needed to make quad bike safety a priority but
Federated Farmers hit back, saying it was recreational users,
not farmers, who were not getting the safety messages.
There were five quad bike incidents over the Christmas-New
Year break, two ending in fatalities.
Wellington Coroner Ian Smith voiced frustration over the
issue, calling on the Government to investigate making
helmets, lap belts and roll bars compulsory on quad bikes,
but parties disagree about whether these features would work.
MBIE spokeswoman Ona de Rooy urged farmers to consider their
stress and fatigue levels, as forgetting to check the bike
before heading out or making a small mistake because of
fatigue can lead to "fatal consequences".
The focus of safety messages should be casual users, argued
Federated Farmers spokeswoman for health and safety Jeanette
Maxwell, as unlike farmers they often received little or no
training around how to ride the bikes safety.
Farms had to include bike safety as part of their health and
safety plans while recreational users could buy and use a
bike unregulated, she said.
"Federated Farmers, along with many other organisations, have
made a real effort to target farmers and we'll continue to do
that because that's absolutely critical but there is that
whole recreational group.
"We need to find a mechanism that targets that group of
people who have a high number of accidents as well on quad
bikes," she said.
Attitudes of recreational users also needed to change, she
"Recreational users, quad bikes and alcohol are a cocktail
for disaster," she said, referring to a Hawkes Bay incident
on January 3 in which Ashlee Shorrock, 6, suffered serious
head injuries after the quad bike she was on with four adults
crashed in a ditch.
"Because they're easy to ride and they're very powerful
machines, you can get yourself in trouble very quickly."
The group advocated reclassifying quad bikes as agricultural
vehicles, which was likely to improve safety it said.
Labour's Transport Safety spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said
the Government should do more to change the culture of quad
bike use to prevent further accidents.
He supported Coroner Smith's call to investigate the use of
helmets, lap belts and roll bars.
But Federated Farmers did not advocate roll-over bars as
these "have killed as many people as they've saved" by
sometimes crushing people when bikes roll, said Mrs Maxwell.
Former Napier farmer Brian Kirk disagreed, saying roll bars
prevented accidents and saved people from being crushed by
bikes that usually weigh 300-375kg.
"They change the shape of the bike so it cannot roll over
more than sideways and it cannot roll over and land on a
body," he said.
Mrs Maxwell and Mr Kirk agreed lapbelts could also be
dangerous by trapping people under bikes.
Research was under way for a "promising" new design that
allows the bike to bend when pressure was put on certain
points, Mrs Maxwell said.
"It holds the bike up but if you fell under the roll cage it
is supposed to bend around you."
While opinions are split over whether mandatory measures are
needed, there is agreement on one key point - it is up to
quad bike users themselves to help prevent future tragedies.