Little interest in new rules
Most New Zealanders think quad bike safety rules are adequate, with 65 per cent of 800 voters on a NZFarmer.co.nz poll saying tougher safety rules are not needed.
The poll was held after Fielding farm worker Richard Hina, 20, was trapped under a quad bike for 23 hours in frigid conditions, suffering hypothermia but no serious injuries.
The poll results are in line with Federated Farmers' thinking. "We don't have a problem with quad bikes but with a caveat," said meat and fibre chairwoman Jeanette Maxwell. "What we say to people is first and foremost look at the job you're doing, look at where you are and how you want to use it. Are you using the right vehicle for what you want to do?"
There are an estimated 100,000 quad bikes in New Zealand, most of which are on farms but many are also used for recreation. Last year there were seven fatal accidents, five on-farm and two during recreational use.
Department of Labour figures show 850 people are injured on quad bikes on farms each year and deaths average five. The department says there are four basic rules that should be followed: riders should be trained, they should chose the right vehicle, wear a helmet and children should not be allowed on adult machines.
Federated Farmers backs those recommendations. "Think about those and, also, have you had a good night's sleep, have you eaten today, have you taken a decent break, is it near the end of the day when I'm more likely to have an accident?" Maxwell said.
"Go out there in the same way that you get into your tractor and everything else and just go through the little mental checklist. At the end of the day, it's a vehicle. Respect it as that." But Maxwell said it was wrong for the public to assume all quad bike accidents were on farms. "We've had recreational deaths and accidents and people just go, 'quad bike – farm' and it's not always farm.
"But time and technology evolve and farmers will adopt other things. We used to ride horses and lots of people died off horses and then we had the three-wheeler bike – that was quite a lethal machine in itself – and now we have the quad bike."
Maxwell says the most dangerous time on farms is late in the day when workers are tired and more likely to be inattentive.
And with the difficult year farmers have experienced with both weather and prices, she's worried stress could lead to more quad crashes.
"I get the accident stats and I could lay them over the top of years of farming. Hard years of farming or difficult years, the accident rates spike significantly and in the good years it drops. We are in a very hard year of farming.
"They're thinking, 'how the hell am I going to feed my sheep, where am I going to get my next cash from, how am I going to manage the feed?', while they're riding and then a moment's inattention or distraction, you're more likely to have an accident."
The Manawatu Standard