Raising the bar on bike safety

By Country News

Farmers have demanded new laws forcing quad bikes to be fitted with roll bars, urging the Federal Government to stare down industry pressure.

The consumer watchdog recommended mandatory roll protection on the bikes in March last year to curb deaths on farms.

The National Farmers’ Federation, Cattle Council and Rural Doctors Association last week questioned why the government hadn’t implemented the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission review.

It comes after manufacturers, including Honda and Yamaha, threatened to withdraw from the Australian market if laws were passed mandating roll bars on quad bikes.

‘‘It’s incredibly disappointing that manufacturers are using such strong tactics to bully decision-makers into not accepting recommendations that will make a difference on farms,’’ NFF president Fiona Simson said.

She said companies were lobbying MPs against making changes as people continued to die on farms.

‘‘Manufacturers should be told by government that this (is) not the way we do it in Australia — we don’t get bullied around,’’ Ms Simson said.

Quad bike makers have argued protection devices would not improve safety, instead saying roll bars could cause injuries.

Rural Doctors Association chief executive Peta Rutherford said quad bike incidents ranged from fractured bones to child deaths.

‘‘These devices are critical to enhancing the safety of these vehicles which are a significant tool of the farming industry,’’ she said.

There were 128 quad bike deaths in Australia between 2011 and the end of last year, with a further seven so far this year.

Cattle Council president Tony Hegarty likened industry resistance to car makers pushing back against compulsory seatbelts when the technology was first available.

‘‘A lot of deaths on farms are at low speed and it’s the bike lying on top of you and you die of asphyxiation,’’ he said.

‘‘The bar is not going to stop the bike rolling but it will give you wriggle room to get out underneath.’’