Posted by: rivettingkatetaylor | November 3, 2010

ATVs – death trap?

ATVs are powerful farm vehicles – dangerous in the wrong hands… dangerous in unskilled hands… dangerous in distracted hands.

I have known of many people who have been killed or injured on farm bikes in the past few decades.  Some on two wheelers. 

Size. As a youngster, Dad took me out the back of our farm once (can’t remember what we were doing) and we went along the side of what we called the Tussock Block. From memory, it was on one of the old three wheelers that are no longer used on farms. One wheel caught the edge of a tussock and over we went. Dad shoved me over the back of the bike while he went over with it. Luckily, it only went a couple of turns and Dad wasn’t injured (that was apparent to my young eye anyway – his muscles and joints probably paid for it the next day).  If he hadn’t time to push me off, the outcome may have been very different. And we were only driving along the side of a paddock. Not chasing stock or in a hurry to get somewhere.

Inexperience. A townie friend and I were riding the bike on the farm when I was about 10 – I can’t remember exactly what happened but it involved speed and a fence (combined with inattention and inexperience) and I had a bloody sore side from the handlebar twisting into me with Tessa on the back.

Speed. Another time, in my teenage years, speed was a factor. We had been doing hay (I think) and I zoomed off ahead (on that three wheeler again) with Mum and Dad following in the ute. Over the brow of a small hill I went, straight into a hole and flipped the thing. Luckily, I had stopped swearing by the time the ute came over the hill.

Stupidity factor. My first time on a two wheeler (yellow Yamaha 125?) with one (or more) of my sisters trying to tell me what to do with the clutch and the throttle. But I knew better. Not. Wheelie and straight into the side of a fence and the grain silo. Bugger.

Later, up here in Hawke’s Bay, I went to a neighbour’s 21st which ended up as a drunken sob fest with the same Sting song being played over and over because all the 21yr olds had lost a mate a few weeks before when he flipped his four-wheeler on top of himself. So sad and such a waste.

So there are four examples off the top of my head where I could have been seriously injured or even killed. And one where they did die.  I did a story about a Ravensdown scholarship last week, which was launched in 2000 in memory of Hugh Williams, a CHB farmer who died as a result of coming off his two-wheeler on the farm.

How many stories are out there like this? How many families have to continue without a child or parent because we take our use of ATVs/farm bikes for granted.

They are useful tools on a farm. They are farm machinery/vehicles. But they are not toys.

Why am I writing about this today?

The Department of Labour launched a campaign this morning to raise awareness of quad bike/ATV safety. This was brought to my attention by a Federated Farmers press release which said “The lesson we’ve learnt is that safety education is not a one-off exercise, due to the natural turnover of farm workers.  It needs to be on-going just like it is with road safety. Like with road safety we see it as education and training led.  Prosecution, the ultimate DoL sanction, is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.  This is about preventing accidents occurring in the first place.”

The release quoted Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers Vice-President and Chair of the Agricultural Health and Safety Council (photo borrowed from FF website)

“Federated Farmers, the Agricultural Health and Safety Council and FarmSafe are all fully behind the DoL on this and genuinely commend the Department for its efforts.

 “ATV’s have become the farmer’s ‘Swiss Army knife’, being horse, trail bike and light tractor all in one.  This multi-use nature of ATV’s can see them pushed beyond their design limits.

“Yet, we must ensure that recreational and tourism operators heed these messages as well.  While ATV’s are farm implements, a majority of ATV accidents aren’t farm work related.  

“The campaign has four major points.  First, users must be trained and experienced in an ATV’s use.  Second, the right vehicle must be chosen for the right job – it’s about knowing limits.  Third, helmets are a life-saver and fourthly, children should not ride adult ATV’s.

“These are consistent messages carried in the Quad Bike Safety Guide, which was developed by ACC and endorsed by the Agricultural Health and Safety Council.

“On top of this, Federated Farmers is on the lookout for new initiatives.  We’ve started this by raising the profile of Personal Locator Beacons for those working in remote locations. 

“We’re also looking at taking to the DoL, a proposal to trial rollover warning systems developed by an American company that fits with our type of typography.  Such a system could overcome a loss of balance revealed in an Otago University study, when riding over rough terrain.

“Education, training and technology could help cut injuries and fatalities associated with ATV’s,” Mr Aubrey concluded.



  1. Mmmm. Just read interesting line on the Department of Labour website. Quad bikes are not all terrain vehicles. They can’t go everywhere and do everything. I will no longer call them ATVs then! Quad bikes or four-wheelers it is.
    Did you hear me on The Farming Show today? Good thing he has me at the end of the show and has a reason to cut me off – noone else would get a word in otherwise!

  2. […] RivettingKate Taylor also has a list of quad bike accidents. […]

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