Launch of school safety resource, 'About ATVs'

  • Ruth Dyson

Thank you for the opportunity to co-host the launch of this school resource and video aimed at keeping children safe around All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs).

I support all the comments made by my colleague Police Minister George Hawkins. I would like to add my own special welcome to Paris, Janneke and Richard, Mr and Mrs Van Velthooven, and other members of Georgina’s family.

I commend and admire the Bowling family for working with the Police, ACC and the Land Transport Authority to share their experience of Georgina’s death and help prevent other similar deaths.

Over 850 people (both children and adults) are injured in New Zealand each year as the result of driving an ATV – mostly on farms performing routine farm work.

About a third of all farm fatalities now involve an ATV.

Approximately 5% of all ACC injury claims involving ATVs are for children under 16. Given that not all injuries are reported to ACC, this figure is likely to be higher.

Farms, of course, are usually both a home and a place of work. This is very different to the industrial or commercial setting in the urban environment where hazardous workplaces can be controlled more readily.

Children who live in the country are used to seeing people drive ATVs and often drive these machines themselves at an early age while helping out on the farm.

To compound the problem, TV advertisements and rural programmes show children either driving an ATV or as a passenger. The view of ATVs as a piece of fun equipment needs to change if we are to reduce ATV-related injuries and deaths.

ATVs are an essential piece of farm machinery. They have become an economic necessity on many farms. They are often used where tractors were used previously, and their use and adaptations by farmers is increasing.

We should never forget, though, that ATVs are heavy machines – many times the weight of any adult, let alone a child – and are a serious safety hazard.

Farmers in New Zealand need to become more aware of these hazards and promote safe practices on their farms.

There is a great deal of effort within the agricultural sector to reduce the injury toll – such as the Agricultural Industry Focus Group’s recently released “Guideline on the Safe use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms”.

ACC has sponsored research and attends many agricultural events to educate farmers about reducing the risk of injury.

Research and appropriate interventions by all stakeholders will continue, but the injury and death to children in New Zealand can be avoided by simply keeping young children off these machines.

I give my thanks, again, to the Bowling family and I commend the Police, ACC and the Land Transport Authority for working together with the family to produce this valuable school resource and video.

The video is heartbreaking. But it will help to save young lives in the future.