By March this year, nine people had already died in quad bike accidents. Quad bikes or ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) are often used on farms and not usually registered for sealed roads. But some say quad bikes are misnamed because they are not safe for sloping terrains. For this reason, more farmers are choosing side-by-side vehicles (SSVs).
SSVs and new rules for quad bikes
Consumer Goods (Quad Bikes) Safety Standard 2019 aimed to reduce the risk of serious crush injuries and deaths because of quad bike rollovers. By October this year all quad bikes will carry a warning sticker about the degree of slope at which they overturn. By October 2021, quad bikes will have to meet minimum standards for stability on slopes and have an operator protection device or rollover bar.
As a result of this new standard, three manufacturers have pulled out of the Australian quad bike market: Honda, Polaris and Yamaha. Honda claims it would be more effective to have mandatory helmets, rider training and to ban children under 16 from riding adult quad bikes. However, Polaris previously forecast a shift from quad bikes to SSVs and is making more SSVs. It claims government mandates and incentives are not the reason for the trend but they are helping it along.
The rebate program
Over 60% of deaths on quad bikes are because they rolled over and 40% of serious injuries from rollovers are traumatic head injuries. So government incentives are aimed at making quad bikes safer and moving farmers towards SSVs.
Use of SSVs has increased by 12% since 2017. An SSV is more stable than a quad bike and can carry more than one occupant. It has seat belts, rollover protection and a higher load capacity. They are also more expensive to buy than quad bikes.
Under the Quad Bike Safety Rebate Program, farmers can get a total $600 rebate on two operator protective devices (OPDs) and $90 rebate for a helmet. They also receive a generous $2,000 rebate on the purchase of an SSV.
Checklist for what to buy
Safework’s Farm vehicle pre-purchase checklist helps farmers find the right vehicle for the job, comparing:
- Two wheeled farm bike
- Side-by-side ute
- Ute or 4WD
- Small truck
- Small farm tractor
- Quad bike.
For too long, riders have been treating quad bikes “like toys”. This is why NSW Innovation and Better Regulation Minister Matt Kean called for a “cultural change” among farmers.
Postscript: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries reported 51% increase in sales of ATVs and SSVs in the first half of 2020, compared to 2019.