'It's a no-brainer': Roll bars would improve ATV safety, expert says
Between 50 and 70 per cent of quad deaths caused by rollovers
Roll bars would help make all-terrain vehicles safer for riders, says an injury prevention expert based at the University of Alberta.
ATVs are small off-road vehicles with large tires, often designed for a single rider or a rider and passenger. Four-wheeled versions are commonly known as quads.
According to numbers from the Alberta government, 85 people died on ATVs in the province between 2010 and 2014.
Don Voaklander, director of the Injury Prevention Centre at the University of Alberta's School of Public Health, told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM on Friday that between 50 and 70 per cent of ATV deaths are caused by rollovers.
"About half of those people are pinned underneath and suffocate or can't extricate themselves because there is nobody around to help them," Voaklander said.
"So, we think the roll bars would be helpful in that."
Roll bars — also called crush-protection devices or operator-protection devices — are designed to stop a quad from fully rolling onto a rider or passenger should the vehicle tip over.
In March, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, a consumer rights body, recommended changes to the "unsafe" design aspects of quads, including making roll bars mandatory.
As a result, quad makers Honda and Yamaha have threatened to pull out of Australia.
Voaklander compares roll bars to airbags, which have become standard safety equipment on cars, trucks and SUVs.
"It's what's called a passive intervention. You don't have to worry about your training or jumping off the machine or anything." Voaklander said.
In a recent University of California study, four different ATV models were rolled onto their backs to calculate how much space was left under the machine with and without a roll bar.
A roll bar provides "between 35 and 120 per cent extra space underneath after the machine rolls over," Voaklander said. "It's a bit of a no-brainer, logically."
Bob Ramsay, president of the Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council, doesn't see it that way.
The group represents many major companies including Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha.
Ramsay said the council doesn't want to see them mandatory, a position based on the findings of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"After their testing they found that [roll bars] really didn't improve safety," Ramsay said. "It doesn't mean that in all situations they would be bad, but if you make it mandatory then you have to use it in all situations."
The roll bar also comes with a seatbelt and Ramsay worries that could impair a rider's ability to manoeuvre the vehicle.
"ATVs are rider-active," Ramsay said. "So as a rider-active vehicle you have to be able to move around on it."
Ramsay recommends riders take a training course.
Anyone riding an ATV on public land in Alberta is required to wear a helmet.
With files from Ariel Fournier