Motorcycle injuries higher than quads

A new study has found off-road motorcycles cause four times the amount of hospital admissions of children in NSW than quad bikes, prompting calls for further attention to the vehicle’s safety by health experts.

The study, led by Dr Chris Mulligan from the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, was published in the journal Injury Prevention last week. It examined all records of children (0-16 years old) admitted to NSW hospitals for injuries sustained in off-road motorcycle or quad-bike accidents in the years 2001-2018.

Of 6624 crashes leading to hospitalisations during this period, 5156 (78 per cent) involved motorcycles and the remainder involved quad-bikes.

Dr Mulligan said the findings support policy changes made over the last decade to improve the safety standards of quad bikes, but the high number of hospitalisations indicate a greater focus of injury prevention measures is needed for motorcycles too.

"We know that over the last 10 years there's been a lot of research particularly into the vehicle risk factors in quad bikes… but we have not had the same level of research done for two-wheeled bikes," Dr Mulligan said.

"While best practice advice for quad bikes is to not recommend their use by children under 16, this may not be practical for motorbikes.

"More efforts are needed to find ways to minimise risks to children using motorbikes recreationally or on family farms."

Motorcycle riders were more likely to have lower limb injuries, but less likely to have head, neck, abdominal or thoracic injuries than quad-bike riders.

Fractures, dislocations and burns were significantly more common in motorcycle riders, whereas quad bike riders were more likely to sustain open and neurovascular injuries.

In the data set, 109 patients needed intensive care and tragically there were 10 deaths, including six children on motorcycles and four on quad bikes.

Dr S Soundappan, trauma surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, said the Emergency Department had seen children as young as four years old admitted with a motorcycle related injury.

“Most children lack the physical and cognitive capacity to control and operate these vehicles safely as they do not yet have the skills to judge speed, distance and make critical lifesaving decisions,” Dr Soundappan said.

“Helmet and protective gear are vital helping prevent injury. There is no doubt that these measures save lives, and we want to make sure children and young people realise this and take these precautions seriously.”

There are currently no requirements for riding off-road motorcycles and quad bikes on private property. Doctors recommend parents consider their child’s age, maturity and skill level before letting them ride, as not every child should be on a motorcycle or quad bike.

To help keep kids safe, remember these rules:

  1. Wear a helmet and protective clothing
  2. Inspect the bike before riding
  3. Ensure children build up bike riding skills, off the road
  4. Ensure children are supervised while riding
  5. Ensure children ride in familiar environments and not on the road

For more information on recreational vehicles, bike and helmet safety, visit the Kids Health website

The study, carried out by UNSW and its medical research affiliates NeuRA and The George Institute, can be read on the BMJ Journals website