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Motorbikes injure more children than quads

Off-road motorcycles land nearly four times more children in hospital than quad bikes, research suggests.

Of more than 6600 crashes leading to hospitalisations in NSW between 2001 and 2018, 78 per cent involved motorcycles, while the remainder involved quad bikes, according to UNSW.

While motorcycles caused a higher rate of injuries for those aged between zero and 16, quad bikes caused more serious injuries and longer hospital stays.

Motorcycle riders were more likely to have lower limb injuries, but quad bike riders had more head, neck, abdominal, or thoracic injuries.

During the study’s 17 years, there were 10 deaths: six from motorcycles and four from quad bikes.

Findings out of the study, conducted alongside Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and The George Institute, back up the the last decade’s quad bike policy changes, lead author and orthopedic doctor Chris Mulligan said.

New Australian safety standards came into effect in 2020 requiring all new and second-hand imported quad bikes sold to have a test tag attached indicating the angle at which they roll over.

From 2021, they had to meet minimum stability requirements and have a roll bar fitted to help prevent riders getting crushed or pinned.

However, the study’s findings shed light on the need for greater focus on motorcycle safety, Dr Mulligan said.

“We know that over the last 10 years there’s been a lot of research particularly into the vehicle risk factors in quad bikes,” he said.

“While best practice advice for quad bikes is to not recommend their use by children under 16, this may not be practical for motorbikes.

“More efforts are needed to find ways to minimise risks to children using motorbikes recreationally or on family farms.”

There’s one major caveat for the study that researchers flag: there could be more motorcycle injuries among children simply because there are more motorbikes than quad bikes.

Both vehicles are unregistered and ridden off public roads, meaning it’s impossible to know how many children are riding, for how long, and over what time period, UNSW Associate Professor Julie Brown said.

The researchers will look into this in a further study.

“We want to engage with industry and other groups and get access to sales data, which would enable us to define what the baseline level of exposure to these vehicles is and what the risk factors are,” Prof Brown said.

“Working co-operatively with young riders and their families, riding organisations, farming groups and industry bodies will be critical in developing effective and acceptable injury prevention measures.”

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