Quad bike fatalities costly but manufacturers fail to act

4 April 2013

Most deaths from quad bike accidents are completely preventable, says Dr Tony Lower. [Image: Ltz Raptor, used under the Creative Commons licence]
Most deaths from quad bike accidents are completely preventable, says Dr Tony Lower. [Image: Ltz Raptor, used under the Creative Commons licence]

Two University of Sydney papers published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health have highlighted the costs associated with fatal quad bike incidents and compared the behavior of the quads industry in opposing safety improvements to that of tobacco companies.

The papers from the University of Sydney's Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS), indicate that the costs for fatal incidents between 2001 and 2010 were $288 million.

"This conservative estimate draws on deaths data from the National Coroners Information System and includes projected losses in future earnings, impacts on household contributions, insurance payments, investigation and hospital costs," ACAHS Director, Dr Tony Lower said.

"The average cost was $2.3 million, with the highest average being in those aged 25 to 34 years at $4.2 million.

"The report states that these costs are only the tip of the iceberg as they don't account for the pain and suffering incurred by families, friends and communities - nor the significant costs associated with life threatening and permanently life-changing non-fatal injuries such as spinal and head injuries.

"The real tragedy behind these figures is that most of these deaths are completely preventable. With around two‚Äźthirds of all deaths involving some kind of quad rollover, it has been estimated that fitting a crush protection device (CPD) has the potential to reduce deaths by up to 40 percent.

"If you add the use of all prevention strategies such as not carrying passengers, excluding children from using quads and wearing a helmet, this increases to 70 percent."

In an accompanying editorial for the Journal, the tobacco-esque attempts by manufacturers to divert attention away from the safety of their product is also described. The paper highlights that none of the companies have presented any of their own research on rollover protection in the public domain over the past 25 years.

"It would be extremely naive to think that they have not undertaken such research given the large number of deaths associated with rollovers," Dr Lower said.

"The strategy to use external research agencies and not present their own information publicly also enables them to manage and outsource any potential legal risk."

The most recent independent assessment of industry information by Monash University reveals the industry has "misrepresented the true results", and undervalued the benefit from fitting a CPD. This is supported by real-life field information where quads fitted with some kind of protection device are under-represented in the fatal and injury statistics.

Further independent information on quad bike safety can be obtained from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety on 02 6752 5210 or Farmsafe Australia.

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Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson, 02 9351 4630, 0481 004 782,