Families that have lost loved ones in quad bike accidents have backed changes to safety standards for the popular farm vehicles.
- Farming families say they’re glad changes are “finally” being made to quad bike safety standards
- Leading manufacturer Honda says it will likely have to cease supplying the vehicles in Australia
- Farmers are also being encouraged to learn more about safe riding practices they can implement themselves
The Federal Government is giving manufacturers two years to comply with legislation mandating that new quad bikes be fitted with crush-protection devices.
Honda Australia spokesman Robert Toscano said the changes were “disappointing” and that it would likely have to cease supplying the vehicles to Australia.
But Alicia Smith, who lost her 26-year-old brother Lachlan in a quad bike accident at Adelong near Wagga Wagga six years ago, said it was about time.
“The recommendations came out in March 2018, so it’s been a long time coming for them to actually put something on paper and make it the standard that it is.”
She said manufacturers should be able to make the changes within the two years they’ve been given.
“What the SafeWork Australia data shows is that a lot of these incidences are occurring where people are being crushed or pinned under a vehicle.
“And if a crush-protection device enables a bit of space for someone to actually crawl out from under that and survive, well I think that is a good step forward.”
Alicia Smith says two years should be enough time for manufacturers to adapt. (ABC Riverina: Lauren Pezet)
Ms Smith said she missed her brother every day, and every milestone was another reminder that he was no longer with them.
And as part of a small family business, the impact of his death had taken more than just an emotional toll, she said.
“We’ve had to change our whole lives and look at what we’re going to do moving forward with succession planning and what to do with the farm as well, because it was going to be something that Locky was going to take on.”
After Melanie Irvin’s seven-year-old son Connor died while riding a small quad bike at Barellan in the NSW Riverina, she focused her attention on lobbying at a federal level for safety improvements.
But she gave up when she felt she wasn’t getting anywhere, and instead concentrated on trying to heal herself and her family, particularly Connor’s twin brother Bailey, as they grieved.
Ms Irvin said she was glad the laws were being changed.
Seven-year-old Connor Irvin died in an accident on the family farm. (Supplied: Melanie Irvin)
“That’s not going to stop the existing ones now, but even if it saves another life and another family from going through what we’ve been going through, hopefully [accidents] reduce considerably.
“There are a lot every year, like Connor’s, that could have been avoided.”
Culture shift also needed
Both women agree there are also things that farmers and parents can be aware of to improve safety.
Ms Smith works in the safety industry and says while attitudes are changing, there is still a long way to go.
“There still is an old culture of, ‘I’ve ridden these bikes for years and I know what I’m doing’.”
She said there was free training available in NSW, and while those who did it found it useful, the uptake wasn’t high.
“Unfortunately a lot of farmers learnt from their fathers and their grandfathers so a lot of practices are outdated.”