Child and youth mortality from motorcycle, quad bike and motorised agricultural vehicle use with a focus on deaths under age 15 years

Child and youth mortality from motorcycle, quad bi…
01 Dec 2014

This special report provides information on the mechanisms and circumstances surrounding deaths where the person was an operator or passenger of a two-, three- or four-wheeled vehicle or motorised agricultural vehicle (collectively referred to as ‘off-road vehicles’ in this report).

The key findings from the analysis of data from the Mortality Review Database on children under 15 years of age who were drivers or passengers in off-road vehicles in any setting follow:

  • Recreational use of off-road vehicles is the second most common cause of recreational death for children in New Zealand. While recent emphasis has focused on reducing quad bike deaths and injury in New Zealand, this report shows child fatalities from motorcycles are also a significant issue.
  • During 2002–12, 33 New Zealand children aged 0–15 years died from using off-road vehicles in both on- and off-road settings.
  • On average, three children aged 0–15 years die annually while driving or riding on off-road vehicles in New Zealand.
  • The rate of off-road vehicle deaths is higher in rural residents (2.92 per 100,000) compared with urban residents (0.68 per 100,000). Children and young people living in urban areas were over four times less likely to die from incidents involving off-road vehicles than children and young people living in rural areas (rate ratio = 0.23; 0.17–0.32). The focus for interventions should be the rural and agricultural sectors.
  • In total, 26 children died in off-road settings. Nineteen deaths occurred on private properties and six of those were children visiting a private property.
  • The greatest number of children died while driving or riding on motorcycles (n=15), closely followed by those driving or riding on quad bikes (n=12).
  • Seven children died while riding on a motorcycle on a public ‘on-road’ setting. Four of these children were driving the motorcycle."
  • Although the Land Transport Act 1998 does not permit drivers aged less than 16 years to drive motorcycles or quad bikes on a public road, there were eight deaths where children were in control of motorcycles or quad bikes, either on a road (n=4) or in a place defined as a Z road (n=4).
  • At the time of the crash, at least 48 percent of the vehicles were being used for recreational riding. The only recreational activity with higher mortality is swimming and recreational use of water.
  • The weight and power of motorcycles and quad bikes relative to the size, strength and skills of children seems to pose a substantial risk. Improved recording of make, model and cc rating is needed to determine the full extent of the safety issues associated with various bike sizes.

During the writing of this special report, it became evident that the appropriate age of drivers in relation to the size, power and cc rating of quad bikes is still unresolved. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention (2000), the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Injury Prevention Committee (2004; 2011) and Farmsafe Australia (2014a) recommend that all children under the age of 16 years be prohibited from operating any quad bike, including those designed and marketed for children. In New Zealand, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and Safekids Aotearoa all recommend that children aged under 16 years should not ride adult-sized quad bikes (those with an engine capacity of 90cc or more) (MBIE 2014b; Safekids Aotearoa 2014).1 This current sector advice in New Zealand differs from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Canadian Paediatric Society and Farmsafe Australia, because it does not discourage children from riding the smaller quad bikes manufactured specifically for young riders.

The CYMRC does not have enough evidence to make a recommendation about the use of small quad bikes. This is because information on the vehicle size and engine capacity was not available in the sources of data (scene investigation and coroners’ reports) for many of the cases reviewed. Because of this, the CYMRC’s position is that, at the bare minimum, the current safety advice on quad bike use in New Zealand must be adhered to until there is evidence to suggest that smaller quad bikes pose a significant risk to warrant banning quad bike use for all children aged under 16 years. Data collected from all off-road vehicle crashes need to be improved in order for an evidenced-based decision to be made on this issue. In the absence of New Zealand data, those purchasing quad bikes that may be used by anyone under 16 years of age should be informed of the risks.

The CYMRC recommends extreme caution to parents and caregivers with regard to the use of quad bikes by anyone under 16 years of age, and to consider overseas recommendations such as ‘DO NOT allow riders under 16 years old to operate a quad of any engine size (kids and quads are a fatal mix)’ (Farmsafe Australia 2014b) until New Zealand data or safety modifications indicate another approach.

Adopting clear mandatory product safety standards in New Zealand, such as the ANSI/SVIA 1-2010,2 would give consumers more certainty about what is being purchased, and potentially limit risks by enhancing the safety of all quad bikes, including the smaller-sized bikes manufactured for children.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018