Australia’s farmers have offered strong support for federal government moves to improve the safety of ATVs or quad bikes, backing new laws to fit rollover bars amid a “horrific” death and injury toll.
The National Farmers Federation believes the devices, which will become mandatory on all new bikes from October, will help save lives.
This puts it at odds with Australia’s peak automotive body which has urged the government to reconsider the new regulations, arguing there is a lack of data to support safety claims.
NFF spokesman Ben Rogers said the organisation believed the government’s proposals were a “sensible middle ground”.
“On the one hand there’s the safety risk, but on the other hand, there’s the risk of over-regulation and making them impossible to be used or generally unavailable,” he told AAP.
“For us, we recognise quad bikes are an important vehicle. We want to continue to have use of them.
“But we have to be realistic that there is a serious safety risk here.
“If it’s not addressed in some way shape or form, some more drastic measures are going to be taken, either by work, health and safety regulators or the federal government banning them.”
However, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries doesn’t support fitting rollover bars and wants a tougher approach to training and helmet compliance.
It has also warned the new rules could result in major overseas manufacturers abandoning the Australian market.
The safety stoush comes at a time when quad bike accidents claim an average of 16 lives in Australia each year.
By mid-December the death toll in 2020 was 21, with about half of those the result of rollovers according to figures compiled by Safe Work Australia.
In 2019 the federal government revamped regulations for quad bikes and similar all-terrain vehicles or ATVs.
Since October last year manufacturers have had to ensure all vehicles meet either European or US safety standards and include a rollover warning label.
From October 2021, they must meet stricter stability rules and be fitted with an operator protection device (OPD), more commonly called a rollover bar.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says the purpose of an OPD is to hold the quad bike off the ground, helping to protect the rider from being crushed or pinned in the event of a rollover.
Two devices have been suggested and while the cost could go as high as about $800 this is not considered an issue for the industry, with bikes retailing for between $12,000 and $25,000.
In support of its case, the FCAI has pointed to a study by US vehicle safety company Dynamic Research which found that the risk of injury from the rollover bars was equal, and in some circumstances greater, than the safety benefits.
The NFF said that study had come in for strong criticism and many more backed the benefits of OPDs.
Federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar told AAP that the government remained committed to improving the safety of quad bikes.