A LEADING local farm safety expert believes education, rather than a ban, is the best way to stop children riding quad bikes.
Hamilton wool producer Michael Blake, who last week won the national farm safety leader of the year award, said making it illegal for children to ride quad bikes would be difficult to enforce.
Mr Blake said quad bikes were usually ridden well away from the eyes of law enforcement agencies and it was unrealistic to believe that any ban could be properly enforced.
Wearing helmets and training in the appropriate use of quad bikes were more likely to have a dramatic impact on reducing deaths and injuries than banning children from riding them, he said.
Mr Blake was responding to a call by Associate Professor Tony Lower, of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, to prevent children riding quad bikes.
Professor Lower is co-author of a study in the Medical Journal of Australia that showed quad bikes were imposing a significant injury burden in Victoria and suggested they be replaced with other vehicles where possible. The study, by Monash University and the University of Sydney, shows there were 19 quad bike deaths and 800 hospital admissions in Victoria over the nine years to the end of June 2011.
The study found that children aged up to 14 years comprised the highest proportion (32.2 per cent) of emergency department presentations for quad bike accidents.
The study said quad bikes were the leading cause of on-farm trauma deaths in 2011 and 2012 in Australia, causing 28 deaths.
Most of the deaths reported in the medical journal involved farm use, but an increasing number of vehicles were being used for recreational purposes.
One of the biggest dangers is that quad bikes are unstable and prone to rollover, crushing their rider.
Mr Blake said children did not have sufficient body weight to provide a counterweight against the bikes rolling over.
He said manufacturers of most quad bikes recommended they not be ridden by children but bolstering that with a ban would achieve little.
Mr Blake said he also had reservations about the study’s call for mandatory fitting of crush protection devices (CPDs).
There was potential for CPDs to create another hazard by elevating the bikes’ centre of gravity and he was awaiting the outcome of further research.