Feds: Quad bikes farm tools, not toys

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014

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The death of 6-year-old Charlie Vercoe is a terrible tragedy, says Southland Federated Farmers boss Russell MacPherson, and he hopes lessons can be learned from it.

Mr MacPherson, who yesterday expressed the federation's condolences to the youngster's family, said Charlie's death was another warning that quad bikes were dangerous and should be treated with respect.

"They are a farm tool, not a farm toy."

Quad bikes looked like fun and could be fun but were terribly dangerous machines, especially in the hands of young people, Mr MacPherson said.

"This is a reminder to parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren should not be on adult quad bikes, it's that simple."

Full-sized four-wheelers carried labels from the manufacturer specifying no-one under 16 should ride one.

The adult-size four-wheelers were heavy, powerful machines and needed an adult to control them, Mr MacPherson said.

"You need weight to manoeuvre and control an adult four-wheeler and kids don't have that."

No passengers should be carried on a four-wheeler either, unless designed to do so: passengers restrict the rider's mobility and add weight, making it harder to control and more prone to tipping over.

"This is a terrible tragedy for the family involved, for Southland and farming communities and if anything can come out of it, it will be a reminder that four-wheelers are dangerous and potentially can kill," Mr MacPherson said.

While one death resulting from a quad bike was one too many, Mr MacPherson said the fatality rate with quad bikes needed to be put in perspective when compared with cars and motorcycles, which killed hundreds of people each year.

"There may be four or five quad-bike deaths a year and most of these are not through farming but as a result of recreational use," he said.

WorkSafe New Zealand figures show 29 people in New Zealand died in work-related quad bike crashes between 2006-12, including two from Southland. The figures did not include recreational quad-bike deaths.

The NZ Transport Agency warns many injuries occur when child riders lose control of quad bikes.

ACC figures show between 2008 and 2012, more than 1400 children nationwide - 700 aged 9 or under - have been injured while on quad bikes or other all-terrain vehicles.

In 2013, WorkSafe figures show there were 12 deaths in the agriculture industry nationwide, making it the most dangerous industry to work in.

Charlie's death this week follows the death of a young child on a Southland farm in June.

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Charlie Aaron Unwin, 2, drowned on a farm near Gore after falling into in a rubbish hole that contained household rubbish and water from recent rain.

Reader alert: The headline that ran on this story earlier today 'Feds: Quad Bikes Terribly Dangerous Machines' has now been changed. Acting editor Mark Hotton explains.

A headline on a story in The Southland Times today that quoted Federated Farmers Southland president Russell MacPherson  was used out of context. It implied that he thought that all quad bikes were dangerous machines. His point was that quad bikes are dangerous when used incorrectly or by people of an appropriate age. We are happy to clarify this and apologise. 

- © Fairfax NZ News

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