The new standards were guided by an ACCC report into quad bike safety that found almost two thirds of fatalities were caused by vehicle rollovers.
“Research indicates that roughly 50 per cent of these operators would have survived the crash had they not been crushed or pinned by the quad bike,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said in a statement.
But advocates say the new standards are only the first step, as there is still no legislated age restriction or helmet requirements for those who ride the four-wheeled vehicles.
A three-year-old boy died on his family’s property in East Gippsland at the weekend after crashing while riding a quad bike. Across the state, a child goes to hospital every five days with a quad-bike-related injury.
Dr Warwick Teague from the the Royal Children’s Hospital welcomed the government’s announcement, but said there is still a long way to go.
The paediatric surgeon, who began advocating on the issue in 2013 after seeing a series of quad-bike-related injuries, said quad bikes and children were a “toxic mix”.
“These are harrowing injuries with long term disability and wide ranging impacts on the family,” he said. “And they are clearly preventable.”
Dr Teague described the injuries he had treated, which ranged from a child’s muscles “cooking” after being pinned under a fallen quad bike to crushed pelvises and limbs and brain-exposed cracked skulls.
“That child will never be able to open his eyes properly again,” he said.
“This is not a fractured forearm from the fall off a skateboard, those rite-of-passage style injuries.
“These are terrible injuries that no child, no family should ever experience.”
Dr Teague wants a 16-year-old age limit legislated and cited a body of evidence to show stickers were not an effective public messaging tool.
“People ignore stickers, they ignore manuals, they make what they believe to be a fair decision based on life experience or public perception.”
The issue falls between government portfolios, Dr Teague said, and so regulation became an “orphaned issue”.
In a statement, Minister for Housing Michael Sukkar said quad bikes cause the most fatalities among all unregulated consumer products.
“This safety standard aims to address the high risk of rollovers, which is especially important for many of our farmers and their families who use these vehicles daily,” Mr Sukkar said.
But the government stopped short of promising to legislate age or helmet requirements.
Victorian Farmers Federation spokeswoman Emma Germano said the changes were only relevant for new bikes and called on farmers to update their bikes.
“Everyone should go and fix up their quad bike today.”
Charlotte is a reporter for The Age.