Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chairman Mick Keogh says to the best of his knowledge nobody in Australia has been killed on a quad bike fitted with a rollover protection device.
He said he was "mystified" and "confounded" by the recent strong campaign against the mandatory fitting of operator protection devices (OPDs) to new quad bikes from October next year.
Some manufacturers were now claiming OPDs were dangerous yet they had not raised any safety concerns while about 20,000 were being fitted to quad bikes during the past five years or more, he said.
"It's only now when we have said these vehicles are inherently unstable, they roll over very easily (and) therefore they require modification that the issue has arisen," he said.
Mr Keogh said he had heard speculation the Australian government's ruling that quad bikes were unsafe may have implications for manufacturers in other countries, notably the United States which has more than 600 deaths and many injuries a year.
"We have no evidence to suggest that but similarly we have no explanation that we can make sense of why this (mandatory rollover devices) has created the response that it has," he said.
Mr Keogh said the majority of fatalities on quad bikes were experienced riders which indicated how inherently dangerous they were.
Sixty three per cent of the 150 quad bike deaths since 2011 had been people over 35 which raised doubts about the likely impact of calls for more rider training and education, he said.
"That's almost the reverse of what you see in motor vehicle accidents which are skewed towards the inexperienced and younger drivers.
"That tells you there is something inherently dangerous about the vehicles themselves when experienced riders are over-represented in fatalities."
As deputy chairman of the ACCC with responsibility for small business and agriculture, Mr Keogh was heavily involved with the commission's two-year inquiry into quad bike deaths and the development of the new safety standard for the machines.
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Mr Keogh said the inquiry included three separate requests for submissions and interactions from stakeholders.
"It was obvious the manufacturers were going to resist in whatever way possible any notion of the need for mechanical modification of existing vehicles," he said.
"The University of NSW's traffic accident research centre did an enormous amount of testing on their tilt tables accidentally crashing quad bikes and tipping them over with dummies and all sorts of things.
"We had several international experts review all that material."
Mr Keogh said the manufacturers had also submitted material which was also reviewed by independent engineering experts but it was "very limited" and based around computer simulations which weren't calibrated against actual accidents.
More than 60pc of fatalities were caused by crush injuries or asphyxiation when a quad bike rolled over the rider or came to rest on top of them which clearly pointed to the need for mandatory OPDs, he said.
(Safework NSW has estimated roll bars on quad bikes would cut deaths by 50pc).
Mr Keogh said the new safety standard had been written to ensure rollover protection could either be integrated into the design of quad bikes or fitted to the product prior to sale.
"There is no reason they (manufacturers like Honda and Yamaha) couldn't continue to import existing models and have rollover protection fitted before sale as long as they met stability requirements.
"We did not specify in any great detail the nature of the rollover protection, we simply specified it provided equivalent or better protection than existing third-party products in the market that have been subjected to testing."
Mr Keogh said deaths in bigger and more expensive side-by-sides had risen quickly as their uptake had increased.
"When we looked at the statistics for that, virtually in every case the fatality in a side-by-side was associated with people not wearing seatbelts and/or (not having) the safety net."
The result was people fell out of the side-by-side and the same issue arose with being crushed.
"But they are more stable and used properly, they are a pretty safe and handy vehicles."
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The story ACCC boss 'mystified' by campaign against rollover protection on quad bikes first appeared on Stock Journal.