The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety has slammed quad bike manufacturers and compared them to “big tobacco” companies for failing to embrace safety improvements.
The centre has released two new papers in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health out today which highlight the costs associated with fatal quad bike incidents.
The papers suggest that the costs of fatal incidents involving quad bikes between 2001-2010 was $288 million.
“This conservative estimate draws on deaths data from the National Coroners Information System and includes projected losses in future earnings, impacts on household contributions, insurance payments, investigation and hospital costs,” said ACAH director Dr Tony Lower.
“The average cost was $2.3million, with the highest average being in those aged 25-34 years at $4.2million.”
Dr Lower said the costs were “only the tip of the iceberg” as they did not account for the pain and suffering incurred by families, friends and communities , or the significant costs associated with life threatening and permanently life-changing non-fatal injuries such as spinal and head injuries.
“The real tragedy behind these figures is that most of these deaths are completely preventable.
“With around two-thirds of all deaths involving some kind of quad rollover, it has been estimated that fitting a crush protection device (CPD) has the potential to reduce deaths by up to 40pc.
“If you add the use of all prevention strategies such as not carrying passengers, excluding children from using quads and wearing a helmet, this increases to 70pc,” Dr Lower said.
In an accompanying editorial for the Journal, the centre accuses manufacturers of being “tobacco-esq” in their attempts to divert attention away from the safety of their product.
The paper said no quad bike manufacturer had presented any of its own research on rollover protection in the public domain over the past 25 years.
“It would be extremely naive to think that they have not undertaken such research given the large number of deaths associated with rollovers,” Dr Lower said.
“The strategy to use external research agencies and not present their own information publicly also enables them to manage and outsource any potential legal risk.”
The most recent independent assessment of industry information by Monash University revealed that manufacturers had “misrepresented the true results”, and undervalued the benefit from fitting a CPD.
This was supported by real life field information where quads fitted with some kind of protection device were under-represented in the fatal and injury statistics, Dr Lower said.
“Just like big tobacco the quad manufacturers continue to roll out dubious information and they clearly don’t want a legal precedent set in Australia.
“The intense interest in what is happening here from the parent companies and major groups representing the industry in the USA is evidence of this.”
The primary reason for this is not user safety as they often proclaim, rather it appears to revolve around the flawed safety of their product and the protection of their legal interests.
“With over 11,000 fatal cases in the US alone, the vested interests of the industry is understandably high.
“Tragically it appears manufacturers are continuing to put profits and fear of litigation, ahead of people’s safety.”
Dr Lower said quads could be useful vehicles especially within the context of agriculture, but they had to be safer before reaching farmers and other users.