Almost every year, many in the farming industry sit back in amazement as they read the accident and fatality statistics relating to quad bikes.
Let’s be clear, we’re speaking here of those accidents that arise on or in connection with the farm. This excludes those that happen with people, typically younger males, using such bikes in the suburbs as a fashion accessory or for sports.
The quad bike is a great machine. It was designed to be easy to ride and more importantly, to be able to cope with tough off-road terrains. Few would argue that it meets those requirements.
Unfortunately though, the ‘all-terrain’ label has and continues, to lead to errors of assumption on the part of some riders. The manufacturers originally designed these bikes to cope with off-road conditions including wet, soft and slippery ground and minor obstructions.
What they didn’t design them for, at least initially, is climbing very steep inclines. As a result, some of the earlier ones were fundamentally unstable if taken right up a steep incline at 90 degrees to the ground plane. So, a significant number of accidents and fatalities happened because these bikes simply toppled back.
While it’s true that some major engineering enhancements have been made over the years and quads are now far more stable than they once were, they still have an ‘operating envelope’ relating to inclines. The guidelines there should not be exceeded.
There is also a riding technique for trying to tackle inclines – and it should be mastered and used.
Roll bar protection
Closely linked to the above point is the absence of roll-bar protection on quads.
Now this situation is changing in some countries but at the time of writing, in many others it’s still possible to see these bikes racing around on farms with their riders largely completely unprotected. In terms of other tractors and agricultural machinery, such a thing would be unthinkable because roll-protection and anti-crush cages are typically a legal requirement.
So, sadly, many serious accidents continue to arise because quads turn over and on top of their riders.
Lack of training
Sadly, another major contributory factor was and remains a basic lack of training in terms of how to ride these bikes. All too often, typically some of the younger guys on the farm just jump aboard and race away.
There is a dangerous assumption that if you can ride a motorcycle then a quad bike should be easy – because it has four wheels.
In fact, riding a quad safely is a different discipline and requires different skills to riding a two-wheeled machine. Their performance and handling characteristics can be very different and they can catch out the unwary/untrained.
Although many countries have made progress through experience, common sense and legislation, quad bike injuries and deaths remain far too high.
So, assuming a zero legislative base where you’re reading this from, here are some top tips:
- Don’t allow anyone to ride quads on your farm unless they have been fully trained and have lots of experience. That’s particularly important where they’re younger people who may have a tendency to be over-confident of their abilities.
- Until you know the person, make sure you “keep an eye on them” for a while to make sure they’re using the correct techniques and are keeping a level head.
- Insist they wear protective equipment when riding – including boots, gloves, helmet, goggles and some form of protective suit.
- Make sure the quad is fitted with some form of anti-crush protection. There are various types available.
- Don’t allow them to overload the quad by carrying other people, animals or anything heavy.
- Be absolutely certain you are fully conversant with the manufacturers’ safety recommendations and the performance envelope for the bike. Do not let anyone ride it until you’ve made them read them and test them beforehand on what they’ve learned/understood!