ATV riding, Outdoors

NZ farmers criticised over poor ATV safety

The farmer in New Zealand has been criticised for failing to ram home the basics of ATV safety. The recent Taranaki coroner recommendation that farmers think about alternatives to ATV use has frustrated NZ Motorcycle Distributors chairman Clive Cooper-Smith. The finding was as illogical as arguing cars should be banned because of high death rates on the open road, Cooper-Smith said.

The coroner was reporting on the death of a 12-year-old boy riding an ATV and made the recommendation in conjunction with the Department of Labour.

Cooper-Smith said in this case ATV rules had not been followed – that is, the boy was under 16 years of age and was not wearing a helmet.

So the biggest question to arise from the incident should have been why the landowner was not prosecuted by Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) for allowing the boy to use the vehicle, Cooper-Smith said.


The boy’s death was a tragic wake-up call for farmers.

Cooper-Smith said he could not understand why so few farmers wore a helmet while riding, and why so many were prepared to break the no- passenger, no children rules.

“Maybe it takes something like this for people to wake up to the fact that this is what happens when you don’t follow the guidelines.

“When are these farmers going to wake up and stop their children riding ATVs?”

Children simply did not have the physical strength or cognitive ability to handle the machines, so it was up to adults to stop under 16s using them. As for taking passengers, Cooper-Smith said there was no such thing as a `back seat’ on an ATV because that space was needed by the driver to distribute their weight evenly across the bike. Cooper-Smith, also general manager of Blue Wing Honda, which runs ATV training courses, said accident rates would not improve until farmers paid real attention to operating instructions.

Fewer than 5 per cent of people who buy new ATVs attended ATV courses, he said. Getting farmers to improve their ATV safety sometimes felt `like climbing Everest’.

Cooper-Smith scorned what he called a `tacit acceptance’ that sometimes there was no other practical option to taking passengers or allowing children to ride. Practicality was no excuse when it came to safety, he said.

“It might also be practical to put your kids in the boot of the car but you’re not allowed to do it,” he said.

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