An engineering expert from the US providing evidence to a Coronial inquest into ATV fatalities in Hobart, Tasmania, has emphasised the safety importance of riders wearing helmets.
Scott Kebschull, from US-based firm Dynamic Research Inc and regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers on All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) testing and safety, told the inquest that hundreds of hours of comprehensive computer simulations had proved without doubt that helmets are the most effective safety device for ATV use.
Mr Kebschull was giving evidence at a Coronial inquest into seven ATV-related deaths which occurred in Tasmania between November 10, 2012 and December 27, 2015.
The Coroner, Mr Simon Cooper, is examining the circumstances around these tragic incidents and is expected to make his findings and recommendations in early 2017.
Mr Kebschull’s evidence followed the appearance of another engineering witness, Mr John Lambert, who was asked by the Coroner to provide evidence regarding his views as to the potential merits of fitting so-called Crush Protection Devices (CPDs) to ATVs. However, midway through his evidence, that witness was discharged by the Coroner.
Overseas engineering and safety experts and the Australian ATV industry have each consistently maintained that CPDs, which have been controversially endorsed and subsidised by the Victorian government despite the absence of scientific research to support their effectiveness, can cause as many injuries as they might prevent.
In his evidence to the Coroner this week, Mr Kebschull reaffirmed that position, saying that a CPD has the potential to prevent a rider from immediately separating from the ATV during a rollover and could therefore increase the risk of the rider becoming trapped under the vehicle. Multiple simulations undertaken by DRI had verified this assessment.
He said that like the motorcycle – another straddle-type vehicle – a rider’s ability to separate from their ATV is vital.
“The CPD can inhibit separation between rider and machine, it could strike the rider, or change the dynamics of the rollover, causing more injuries,” Mr Kebschull said.
Using the scientific evidence compiled over many years by DRI and others, the FCAI has developed its own 5-Star ATV Safety Guide providing tips and promoting safety ATV practices, which can be found at www.atvsafety.com.au
The FCAI’s Five Star ATV Safety advice is to:
- Choose a vehicle that is fit for purpose – for the task and for the rider;
- Always wear a helmet;
- Take training so you are familiar with the machine’s features and limitations;
- Don’t put passengers on single-seat ATVs, or allow kids under 16 on adult ATVs; and
- Always follow the manufacturer’s guidance and warnings.
The inquest is continuing.