BAN CALL: A surgeon has spoken out on the dangers of children riding quad bikes.
BAN CALL: A surgeon has spoken out on the dangers of children riding quad bikes. iStock

Call to ban kids on quad bikes

IN MY work as a surgeon and trauma prevention advocate, I see few better places to start saving lives than a ban on children getting on quad bikes.

This is a hard line, too hard for some, but I would challenge anyone - farmer, doctor, lawyer, voter, seller, buyer, parent or child - to answer the question: How many more children do you think need to be injured on quad bikes before we say "enough is enough"?

Since 2001, 42 Aussie kids aged under 16 have died from quad bike trauma.

That is a classroom full of children in parts of Australia, and in some country schools losing 42 kids would be the loss of a community.

Some die instantly, while others die slower, horrible and heart-wrenchingly avoidable deaths, pinned under the immovable weight of a tipped quad bike.

Quad bikes are relentless and merciless in their ability to kill, which sets them apart from other dangers like horses or motorbikes.

In Victoria alone, over a 12-year period almost 800 children under 16 years presented to emergency departments with quad bike trauma, and a third of these were admitted.

The hospital I work in, the Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, is our state-designated paediatric trauma centre, and so we see Victoria's most injured children.

We have seen a rise in quad bike injuries each year - injuries that change children's lives forever: crush injuries to the head and chest, fractured thigh bones, spinal injuries, major burns, pelvic fractures and abdominal organ injuries.

What starts with injury continues as disability with interrupted education, disrupted family life, loss of opportunity and more.

A key danger of quad bikes is their inherent instability and tendency to tip and crush the rider, striking a blow that causes direct and terrible injury or cruelly pins the child until they are, hopefully, discovered.

What we don't see enough of is action. Together with many health and farm safety groups, my assertion is kids can only be adequately protected and injuries prevented with a ban: no child under 16 on any quad of any size, at any time in any place for any reason.

It would be a strict step, but it would reflect the risk posed by quads.

Some say the ban isn't required, but I very much doubt they have listened to the cries of bereaved families or felt their broken bodies.

Some say smaller quads can be safe, but the weight of evidence against this is only surpassed by the weight of the lightest quad as it crushes and suffocates its victims.

Some say a ban won't work, but the 2010 ban in the US state of Massachusetts has achieved zero deaths in kids and dramatic reductions in injuries.

Some say quad-bike legislation isn't their responsibility, priority or portfolio, but I say preventing childhood death and injury is everyone's responsibility and should be on everyone's agenda.

Delay means further deaths and injuries - enough is enough.

Warwick Teague is the Royal Children's Hospital surgeon and trauma services director.

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