The Weekly Times newspaper continues to report on the changing attitudes to quad bike safety in Australia. In its 19 October 2011 edition it featured an article that for the first time in the Australian print media questions the US research statistics on quad bike safety on which motorcycle manufacturers have been relying for many years.
The research by Dynamic Research, predominantly undertaken by John Zellner, has been questioned before but the appearance of such an article in the mainstream, albeit rural, press indicates a degree of research maturity in this area in Australia. It also indicates the possibilities presented by the internet and social media for promoting change and questioning important matters that do not usually garner mainstream attention.
Many of the researchers mentioned in the Weekly Times article appeared on a recent TV current affairs program on the issue. One of the Australian researchers , John Lambert, has called for crush protection devices to be mandated based on his research. Lambert’s research report soon to be released on his website questions Zellner’s computer simulations, risk benefit analyses, computer modelling and suitability using a “hybrid dummy.
Another researcher mentioned in the Weekly Times article, Shane Richardson, published his investigations into quad bike safety in 2009. This research questions the basis for safety calculations in some of the New Zealand quad bike safety guidelines.
The research to-ing and fro-ing in the quad bike debate in Australia indicates more clearly than ever that an independent research program into quad bike safety is required for Australia. The mention of a research grant application is a positive development but we have seen that the quad bike safety debate has been very bitter and sometimes accusatory. Any new independent research will only prolong the tension if the quad bike manufacturers do not have an active participation in the research or acknowledge some legitimacy in the results.
Research by itself will not progress quad bike safety. Political bridges must start to be rebuilt between the important stakeholders in this safety issue in order to achieve a permanent sustainable safe working environment.