Quad bikes have so far killed nine people — including two children — across Australia this year, and yet in the US state of Massachusetts only one child has died in the past decade.
- US state passed law in 2010 banning children aged 13 or younger from riding ATVs
- It saw a 50pc reduction in emergency department visits for kids aged 10-13
- Eight of nine quad-bike-related deaths recorded in Australia were on rural properties
Behind this dramatic drop in the fatality rate is something known in the US as Sean’s law.
The death of an eight-year-old boy named Sean prompted the state to pass a law in 2010 banning children aged 13 or younger from riding all-terrain vehicles (ATV).
It also required 14-to-17-year-olds to take training classes and to be directly supervised by an adult.
This week the verdict on the law’s impact has come in with new data showing the law is saving lives.
Michael Flaherty, from the Department Paediatric Critical Care at Massachusetts Hospital, was a lead author of a study looking at off-road vehicle-related hospital admissions since the law was introduced.
“In the 10-to-13-year-olds we found a 50 per cent reduction in emergency department visits for all-terrain vehicle and off-road vehicle-related injuries,” Dr Flaherty said.
“Similarly, in the 14-to-17-year-old age group we found a 39 per cent reduction in ER visits.
“And when comparing this to our comparison group, the adults, there was no statistical difference in change, pre- and post-law.”
Paediatric and neonatal general surgeon Peter Masiakos, who co-authored the study, said other states in the US should adopt similar laws.
“Off-road vehicles, including ATVs, are as dangerous to their operators as any vehicle we allow on the highway,” Dr Masiakos said.
“It stands to reason that these vehicles should be subject to at least as much regulation and control and that these regulations should include appropriate age restrictions.”
Only one child has died from riding an all-terrain vehicle since 2006 in Massachusetts.
‘Quads and kids simply don’t mix’
John Crozier, chair of the national trauma committee at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, said Australia should adopt a similar law.
“Children simply do not have the physical mass, they don’t have the cognitive ability,” Dr Crozier said.
“They ride against the stipulation of the manufacturers if they ride, or are passengers on particularly the adult-sized quad bikes.
“Quads and kids simply don’t mix.”
Eight of the nine quad-bike-related deaths recorded in Australia so far this year were on rural properties.
Even so, Dr Crozier believes if the law was changed here, land owners would ensure it was observed because the stakes would be so high.
“It doesn’t require necessarily enforcement, but at the point the law is breached the supervising person will have a legal responsibility,” he said.
“Now we have similar legislation in many ways in respect to pool fencing and there was a lot of protest about pool fencing being a legal responsibility of an owner-occupier.
“With the initial resistance, gradually that legislation was implemented and we see the benefit with the protection from drowning by that mandatory legislation.
“Now in a sense banning 16-year-old or younger from quad bikes is a very similar form of legislation.”
But Peter Donovan, chief executive for the Northern Territory Motor Trades Association, said a ban was not needed.
“Like any piece of machinery or recreational bit of gear, doesn’t matter whether it’s mechanised or non-mechanised, if the right training, safety gear and supervision is put in place then those particular items can be perfectly safe,” he said.
“It’s like trying to ban horses because a number people have fallen off horses without helmets.”