26 Jan 2015

Quad bikes not for kids - safety advocates

7:06 pm on 26 January 2015

Young children should not be using quad bikes and motorcycles, safety advocates say. The comments follows the death of a six-year-old girl in Wairarapa yesterday.

The police have confirmed the girl lost control of the quad bike she was riding and hit a fence at the Jayden Kilmister memorial ride in Bideford, an event which honours a 15-year-old trail-bike rider who died in 2009 when he was blown off a ute by a strong gust of wind.

Senior Sergeant Jymahl Glassey said the bike the girl was riding could have been as heavy as 80kg. Her family saw the accident and was devastated, he said.

Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee chair Dr Nick Baker last month published a report looking at the 61 children and young adults who died in off-road vehicle accidents between 2002 and 2012.

"There was a whole variety of different causes, some of them were that the youngster riding the bike just did not have the physical ability and the thinking ability to manage the situation they found themselves in," he said.

"Some of them were very inexperienced riders and would suddenly put the bike into full throttle or the wrong gear and get a surprise and all too quickly a quad bike accident could be lethal."

Children's commissioner Dr Russell Wills said yesterday's accident was a reminder young children were not capable of riding bikes of any size.

Figures from the Health Quality and Safety Commission showed off-road biking accidents were the second highest cause of child recreational deaths behind swimming and other water activities.

Last year, a five-year-old girl died near Nelson while riding a motorbike when she panicked and lost control of the throttle and a six-year-old boy died while riding a quad bike during a farm visit in Southland.

In 2002, Richard Bowling's eight-year-old daughter died when she crashed the family's quad bike and choked on her helmet strap at their home in Blenheim.

Mr Bowling said there was not enough awareness about the dangers of using ATVs.

"The longer that it continues in the status quo, the more apathy that exists around it," he said.

"When you continue to hear of children being injured and killed by these things - I know through our own apathy at the time that it wouldn't be us, it couldn't be us - we found out the hard way."

Mr Bowling said there needed to be regulations that stop inexperienced children using bikes.

Motorcycling New Zealand president Glen Williams said pee-wee riding for children under 10 years old was a big part of the sport.

He said there were recommended guidelines most people adhered to but there was always the potential for freak accidents.

"It's a terrible fact sometimes, and a tragic fact, that the worst outcome can occur occasionally but the idea is to try and make it as safe as possible."

It was mainly up to parents to make sure their children were trained and capable of riding bikes, Mr Williams said.

Setting up a licencing system for children to use bikes was something that could be explored, he said.