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Laws change for quad bike safety

New quad bike laws have come into affect
New quad bike laws have come into affect Louise Stonehouse

SARA Beak was only a little one when she first rode shotgun on a quad bike, but it was a long time until she was able to drive one by herself.

Her first solo ride was at age eight, with her mum and dad's number one rule always being "do not speed”.

Sara, along with her two younger siblings, grew up on a 4800 hectare property about 100km from Marlborough and to this day she has never had an accident involving a quad bike.

Quad bikes are, and always have been, a part of growing up in the country. But with the number of accidents increasing, new measures are being put in place by the government to reduce serious injury and fatality rates.

New laws were introduced in Queensland on February 1 prohibiting children under the age of eight from being carried as passengers on quad bikes and utility off-road vehicles being used on a road, as well as any child of any age if they can not sit with their feet flat on the floor and hands on handholds.

Operators and their passengers (of quad bikes/utility off road vehicle) to wear a motorcycle helmet - failing to do so will incur a penalty).

With more than 700 head of cattle, Sara was always lending a hand with mustering, branding, fixing fences, checking cattle in the paddocks, water and molasses runs. All which often required using the quad bike.

Sara and her siblings first learnt how to drive the quad around the house yard, which she says was quiet easy as it was an automatic.

"Mum and dad taught me how to steer and where the brakes were, lights and emergency brakes, the rest aren't all that important so they came after,” the now 24-year-old said.

"It all depends how you use them.

"Like a car you shouldn't be speeding. We've used them for fixing the fences, water runs and some odd mustering and many other things to do.”

Sara believed the control of a quad and preventing an accident all came down to the operator but in saying that she said they were also very easy to flip.

"I think if people want to use them, they should definitely know how to use them before operating. They aren't a toy, they will hurt or kill you and, like anything, yes helmets will save you,” she said.

"However, a lot of property owners won't wear one.

"The last thing you want to do on a nice, hot day mustering or doing the fence run is to wear a heavy, hot helmet, which normally don't have brims, therefore leaving you with sunburn.”

Sara said people who did not work a property or outside did not understand how hot it could really get throughout the course of a day.

"Again, it's how you drive them. People know the risks of a quad. If they want to speed or conduct themselves in a silly or stupid manner then how are you going to stop them?”

However Sara thinks the new rules that have been introduced are a step in the right direction.

"I think if the owners of the bike want to put a helmet on their child whom is under eight for safety, it's a great idea,” she said.

"Touching the floor gives stability yes, however if they can't that's why there is brakes where the steering is and that's what gives you control.

"They are your two most important things.”

Central Queensland Agforce regional manager Sharon Howard said unfortunately the helmet design had not progressed as quickly as Agforce would have liked.

"We now have laws that require producers to wear cumbersome, hot helmets when operating off-road vehicles and quad bikes on property roads,” she said.

The regional manager acknowledged that rural operators needed a helmet that protected from head injuries but also knows the needs to "allow for long periods of use in the heat”.

"Helmets that enable adequate air circulation to prevent heat stress and sickness are vital for the rural industry,” she said.

"Having said that, abiding by road laws protects everyone from injuries and the statistics prove these machines can easily cause injury and deaths.”

QUAD BIKE STATS

  • There are approximately 380,000 quad bikes in operation in Australia.
  • Quad bike use is the leading cause of injuries and fatalities on Australian farms and has resulted in over 230 fatalities across Australia over the past 15 years and approximately 7900 hospitalisations, between 2003 and 2011, with the majority occurring on private property.
  • Of these, 69 occurred in Queensland (approximately 30%) which is the highest fatality rate across all Australian jurisdictions.
  • Of the 69 Queensland fatalities, 42 were recreational incidents, for example, an operator falling off a quad bike while on a hunting expedition. The remaining 27 incidents were work-related, for example, an operator losing control of a quad bike while mustering. Approximately 20% of the fatalities were children under the age of 16.
  • Queensland accounts for approximately one-quarter of these injuries and fatalities which is the highest percentage across all jurisdictions.
  • Since January 2001, there have been more than 230 quad bike-related fatalities in Australia, which is approximately 15 deaths a year.
  • Queensland consistently has the highest number of annual hospital admissions compared to other states

Topics:  children farm helmet law quad bikes


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