Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chairman Mick Keogh says to the best of his knowledge nobody in Australia has been killed on a quad bike fitted with a rollover protection device.
He said he was "mystified" and "confounded" by the recent strong campaign against the mandatory fitting of operator protection devices (OPDs) to new quad bikes from October next year.
Some manufacturers were now claiming OPDs were dangerous yet they had not raised any safety concerns while about 20,000 were being fitted to quad bikes during the past five years or more, he said.
"It's only now when we have said these vehicles are inherently unstable, they roll over very easily (and) therefore they require modification that the issue has arisen," he said.
Mr Keogh said he had heard speculation the Australian government's ruling that quad bikes were unsafe may have implications for manufacturers in other countries, notably the United States which has more than 600 deaths and many injuries a year.
"We have no evidence to suggest that but similarly we have no explanation that we can make sense of why this (mandatory rollover devices) has created the response that it has," he said.
Mr Keogh said the majority of fatalities on quad bikes were experienced riders which indicated how inherently dangerous they were.
Sixty three per cent of the 150 quad bike deaths since 2011 had been people over 35 which raised doubts about the likely impact of calls for more rider training and education, he said.
"That's almost the reverse of what you see in motor vehicle accidents which are skewed towards the inexperienced and younger drivers.
"That tells you there is something inherently dangerous about the vehicles themselves when experienced riders are over-represented in fatalities."
As deputy chairman of the ACCC with responsibility for small business and agriculture, Mr Keogh was heavily involved with the commission's two-year inquiry into quad bike deaths and the development of the new safety standard for the machines.
Mr Keogh said the inquiry included three separate requests for submissions and interactions from stakeholders.
"It was obvious the manufacturers were going to resist in whatever way possible any notion of the need for mechanical modification of existing vehicles," he said.
"The University of NSW's traffic accident research centre did an enormous amount of testing on their tilt tables accidentally crashing quad bikes and tipping them over with dummies and all sorts of things.
"We had several international experts review all that material."
Mr Keogh said the manufacturers had also submitted material which was also reviewed by independent engineering experts but it was "very limited" and based around computer simulations which weren't calibrated against actual accidents.
More than 60pc of fatalities were caused by crush injuries or asphyxiation when a quad bike rolled over the rider or came to rest on top of them which clearly pointed to the need for mandatory OPDs, he said.
(Safework NSW has estimated roll bars on quad bikes would cut deaths by 50pc).
Mr Keogh said the new safety standard had been written to ensure rollover protection could either be integrated into the design of quad bikes or fitted to the product prior to sale.
"There is no reason they (manufacturers like Honda and Yamaha) couldn't continue to import existing models and have rollover protection fitted before sale as long as they met stability requirements.
"We did not specify in any great detail the nature of the rollover protection, we simply specified it provided equivalent or better protection than existing third-party products in the market that have been subjected to testing."
Mr Keogh said deaths in bigger and more expensive side-by-sides had risen quickly as their uptake had increased.
"When we looked at the statistics for that, virtually in every case the fatality in a side-by-side was associated with people not wearing seatbelts and/or (not having) the safety net."
The result was people fell out of the side-by-side and the same issue arose with being crushed.
"But they are more stable and used properly, they are a pretty safe and handy vehicles."
However, Yamaha Motor Australia chief operating officer and director Brad Ryan said there was no reason for Mr Keogh to be puzzled by the recent push back against mandatory rollover devices on new quad bikes.
"I was in a meeting with Mr Keogh and his quad bike team two years ago and every manufacturer - I think Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki - said they would not be able to comply with the operator protection device (OPD) requirement," he said.
"We were even asked by the ACCC whether we would consider changing our stance from being anti-OPD to just being neutral, so I'm not sure who told Mr Keogh we weren't against OPDs".
Mr Ryan said the manufacturers were opposed because there was zero proof they worked, they would not put someone's "backyard built device" (OPD) on their machines without rigorous engineering and testing and the ACCC wanted them to wear the legal risk for the rollover devices.
"It's immensely frustrating the ACCC is now trying to blame manufacturers for not participating in something we said all along we couldn't do.
"We fought and lost and are trying to exit the field gracefully. Unfortunately it appears someone told someone we were bluffing and now they need to shift blame for that miscalculation.
"It also means they never really understood, or even listened to, what we were trying to explain, they just dismissed it as commercial lobbying. Understandable in one sense, that's what they're used to. Unfortunately it meant in this case they missed the point.
"The safety labelling and adhering to international standards requirements were fine but we can't do the OPD part of the regulation so we have to exit.
"A couple of Chinese brands who have never spent a cent on safety in this country will remain to exploit the situation and the ACCC has publicly said they're okay with that," he said.
"The uproar is I think because farmers are catching on. They're mostly blaming the Government but some are realising that the NFF lobbied furiously against industry under the pretext of safety and didn't consult the actual users who will be badly affected by all this.
"The NFF is quoted as saying they're happy to see us go and they're happy the Chinese brand is staying, which I don't understand, but I guess speaks to their ferocious anti-industry stance.
"My one regret in all this is we weren't able to overcome our differences with the NFF and sit down and have a reasonable conversation. Even now they refuse to talk to us. In a recent article they said they've re-convened a quad bike working group, but no industry member has been invited," Mr Ryan said.
The story ACCC boss 'mystified' by campaign against rollover protection on quad bikes first appeared on Farm Online.