Do we have all the facts when it comes to quad bike safety and protecting riders from injury or death?
Motorcycle manufacturers are using flawed US research to counter calls for rollover protection structures on their ATVs, Australian transport safety experts claim.
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ATV manufacturers have used US firm Dynamic Research Inc's work to back their claim ROPS cause as many injuries as they prevent.
But University of NSW researchers and local safety consultants say the US research fails to simulate real-life rollovers.
Dynamic Research built a computer model to simulate 113 real-life rollover accidents.
Australian engineers analysed the model and found it predicted 99 of the 113 rollover accidents would result in head injuries. Yet the US and UK injury reports showed just 16 suffered head injuries.
The model predicted just four of the 113 accidents would result in trunk injuries (shoulder to groin). Yet the injury reports showed 50 of the accidents resulted in trunk injuries.
Queensland safety consultant Geoff McDonald said it was clear the model failed to simulate real-life rollover injuries, yet it was being used to test the effectiveness of rollover protection systems on ATVs.
However, Dynamic Research technical director John Zellner dismissed the criticism, saying comments such as "fails to simulate" showed a misunderstanding of his research.
"We attempted, and were feasibly only able, to model the primary intended use of the product - by helmeted, mid-sized adult males, with no cargo or towed equipment - and also the same riders and vehicles under one condition of misuse," Mr Zellner said.
He said Dynamic was unable to simulate the real-life accidents as there was a lack of information available on terrain, rider age, weight, helmet use and whether they were carrying cargo or towing accessories.
But University of NSW Transport and Road Safety chairman Professor Raphael Grzebieta said the model was crude.
He said the Dynamic model's bias towards head and not trunk injuries meant it disadvantaged ROPS.
"It not only disadvantages it (ROPS), it creates enough doubt on it that regulators have decided not to recommend them," Prof Grzebieta.
Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety director Tony Lower said three Australian safety engineering experts - John Lambert, Geoff McDonald and Shane Richardson - had analysed and exposed apparent flaws in Dynamic's work.
But Prof Grzebieta said the only means of resolving the ATV ROPS debate was to commission further Australian research assessing their value. He and other researchers are applying for a Australian Research Council grant to test a range of ATV safety devices and design, not just ROPS.
Meanwhile, 19 people have died in ATV accidents in Australia this year, up from 10 in 2006.
In the US 10,281 people have died in ATV accidents since 1982.
The latest US Consumer Protection Safety Commission report on ATVs shows 760 people died in ATV accidents in 2009, with almost a third under the age of 16. Another 131,900 people were injured.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for laws prohibiting the use of ATVs by children and adolescents younger than 16 years, plus mandatory helmet laws.