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Quad bike and other off-road vehicle accidents second largest cause of child recreational deaths

A report into the deaths of children in motorcycle, quad bike and other ‘off-road vehicle’ accidents is calling for cross-sector collaboration to tackle what is the country’s second largest cause of recreational death for those aged under 15.

The report from the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, which operates under the umbrella of the Health Quality & Safety Commission, shows that on average three children aged under 15 die a year in off-road vehicle accidents.

In 2002-2012, 33 children were killed, nearly half of whom were using the vehicle recreationally. Only swimming and other water activities led to more recreational deaths of children.

Of the 33 children:

  • 15 were on motorcycles, 12 on quad bikes
  • 22 were operating the vehicle themselves – one aged 0–4 years, five 5–9 and 16 10–14
  • 26 died off-road, seven on-road
  • children in rural areas were four times more likely to die than those in urban areas.

‘Too often, parents and caregivers fail to recognise the dangers these powerful machines pose for children,’ says committee chair Dr Felicity Dumble.

Dr Felicity Dumble

Dr Felicity Dumble

‘Inexperience, inadequate physical size and strength, as well as immature motor and cognitive development, all add to the risks for children. Risks are further increased when vehicles are used outside the scope of the manufacturer’s design and safety guidelines.’

Dr Dumble says while recent emphasis has focused on reducing quad bike deaths and injury, the report shows motorcycle deaths to be an equally significant issue.

Key sector stakeholders consulted during the development of the report included Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, the Motor Industry Association of New Zealand, the Motor Trade Association, Yamaha Motor, WorkSafe New Zealand, Police, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Among the report’s messages to parents and caregivers are:

  • helmets should always be worn
  • passengers should not be carried on quad bikes unless the bike was designed for that purpose
  • children under 16 should never operate an adult-sized quad bike
  • as a minimum, children aged 6–16 should only operate quad bikes specifically designed for a child of their age
  • if any child is going to ride a quad bike, they must, at all times, be supervised by an adult who has the training, skills and experience to use it safely
  • no child under the age of 6 should ever be in control of an off-road vehicle
  • a growing number of international authorities and organisations recommend children under 16 should not be in control of quad bikes of any size.

The report makes a number of policy recommendations, including:

  • a single agency should take responsibility for off-road vehicle child and youth injury prevention and lead cross-sector planning, implementation and evaluation of safety interventions. That agency should be ACC
  • the role of the Police Serious Crash Unit should be reviewed with a view to ensuring it is involved with all deaths related to motor vehicles
  • training on off-road vehicles should be widely available for children and young people and should be encouraged before they ever operate one
  • MBIE should continue to consider the implications of adopting the American National Standards Institute’s safety standards for quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles, so all off-road vehicles entering New Zealand are built to minimum construction standards
  • some of the exemptions for farmers under the Land Transport Act 1998 should be re-evaluated, including those involving helmet use and on-road use of farm bikes.

When developing these and other recommendations, says Dr Dumble, the aim was to acknowledge what is reasonable, achievable and acceptable while challenging behaviours and attitudes associated with unacceptable risk for our children and young people.

‘During our consultations for the report, we learned there is no one simple solution to these issues. They require a multi-faceted response and further discussion across the sector about the value and viability of the different options.’

Read a copy of the report, Child and youth mortality from motorcycle, quad bike and motorised agricultural vehicle use with a focus on deaths under age 15 years.

To interview Dr Felicity Dumble or for other media inquiries, contact Commission Communications Coordinator Guy Somerset, (04) 913 1745, 021 813 591, guy.somerset@hqsc.govt.nz.

Frequently asked questions

See also: Quad bike injuries in Waikato, New Zealand: an institutional review from 2007-2011

Dr Grant Christey

Dr Grant Christey

This paper from the Waikato Hospital Trauma Service shows a spectacular rise in quad bike injuries from 2007-2011. The admission rate rose by 42% between 2009 and 2010. Maori  were at particularly high risk and rollovers and collisions caused the most serious injuries. Interestingly children had the same injury rates as adults, but every crash is a disaster if we consider them to be preventable.



General media enquiries

Mobile: 021 671 239

Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

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