The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has strengthened its call for the fitting of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) on quad bikes in the wake of strong support from their membership.
Dr John Hall, RDAA President, said he was blown away by the positive feedback he received from other rural doctors about the Association's stance on quad bike safety.
"We have partnered with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) over a number of years campaigning for the mandatory fitting of OPDs on all new quad bikes," Dr Hall said.
"I have been really heartened by the positive emails and calls we received from our members thanking us for our strong stance and recent public stance on the issue.
"Rural doctors play a unique role in their communities, working across both the general practice and hospital settings.
"We see firsthand the trauma cases that come through the door of the emergency department, many of whom we know personally, and worse sign the death certificates for those tragically killed perhaps just going about their daily work or else as a result of a horrific lapse of judgement.
"But we also deal with the fallout. The family and friends affected by the deaths.
"We see patients in our general practices as they struggle to cope after losing a father, a husband, a wife, a mother or a child.
"We see families who lose their homes because they can't keep the farm or business running, or ripped apart by the accidental death of a child riding a quad.
"Yes, absolutely we support further education and licencing for quad bike users, but we are also painfully and acutely aware that these accidents will continue to happen," Dr Hall said.
"A fixed operator protection device is something that is with the bike all the time, no matter who is riding it, and helping to prevent the catastrophic asphyxiations that are so often the result of being crushed in a rollover."
The ACCC Quad Bike Taskforce conducted a comprehensive, two-year safety investigation and in 2019 recommended the adoption of a mandatory safety standard for all new quad bikes sold in Australia which included improved information for potential purchasers, enhanced quad bike stability, and rollover protection to reduce injuries and deaths.
"The ACCC has done their due diligence here and we strongly support all three safety measures, but we find this push-back on the fitting of OPDs very concerning," Dr Hall said.
"Some of our members who have contacted us were involved in the push to install similar devices, Roll Over Protection (ROPs), on tractors some three decades ago.
"These are now mandatory on all tractors, and were so successful that the government sponsored a subsidy to retrofit ROPs to older tractors to improve their safety.
"Today you hardly see a tractor without one and nobody thinks twice about there being one on there when you purchase a new tractor.
"We see OPDs on quad bikes as a similar initiative, only they will probably save even more lives due to the sheer number of accidents that happen on these machines," Dr Hall said.
Fourteen people, including three children died in quad bike accidents in Australia in the first six months of 2020, compared to eight in the whole of 2019. Quad bike accidents are the leading cause of death and severe injuries on Australian farms.
Since 2011, 150 people have died from accidents, including 23 children. As well, six people present to hospital each day as a result of quad bike related injuries.
The first stage of new safety standards, incorporating labelling, will take effect from October 11, with rollover protection mandatory from October next year. The ACCC, however, is worried about misinformation and scare campaigns from groups opposed to the new standards.
"Top of the list is the suggestion that because some quad bike manufacturers have threatened to stop selling in Australia due to the new safety requirements, farmers will lose a critical piece of farm machinery," ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.
"If a manufacturer withdraws from Australia, others will willingly step in to provide the safer quad bikes."
He also rejected suggestions the new standards would give riders a false sense of security.
"Of course, it is important to always ride safely but the new safety measures will go a long way to reducing deaths as they are designed to reduce the frequency and impact of quad bike rollovers," Mr Keogh said.
The consumer watchdog has launched two videos highlighting new quad bike standards to tackle a misinformation campaign. One of the new videos, shot in country Victoria, shows how easily a quad bike can tip over and trap its rider and includes information about what to look for when buying a bike.
A second video shows what suppliers must do to comply with the new standard.
Manufacturers have been arguing rider behaviour is behind the death and injury toll but the consumer watchdog says the inherent instability of quad bikes causes them to frequently roll over, injuring and killing even experienced riders.