28 November 1997

Roll-bars are not worth it

By Geoff Ashcroft

ROLL-bars on ATVs do not offer any additional rider protection compared to ATVs without roll-bars. Thats the message from the British All Terrain Vehicle Association (BATVA) following computer simulated tests based on HSE accident data.

Current proposals for the amendment of the Provision and Use of Work Regulations – if approved – will require some form of roll-over protection (ROPS) system to be fitted to ATVs. Should the amendment get the green light, BATVA and the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) are looking to make ATVs exempt from the scheme.

Simulated accident tests, carried out on behalf of the ATV industry by US-based Dynamic Research, set out to reconstruct accidents comparing the original with that of an ATV equipped with various ROPS devices. These included the HSEs hoop-like frame, and the New Zealand-made T-bar system.

In most instances, Dynamic Researchs results found in the event of an overturn, any form of ROPS fitment would increase the severity of the riders injury.

"The use of a ROPS device is conflicting with the way an ATV is operated," explains Bill Willen from the American Honda Com-pany. "ROPS is designed to limit the riders body movement in order to offer adequate protection. But an ATV needs rider interaction and frequent shifting of body weight to control the vehicle effectively."

There are misconceptions from those who write the rule books on the use of ATVs, adds Mr Willen.

"And by adding a lap belt to further restrain the rider within a ROPS device will only increase the risk of an overturn."

Mr Willen also points out that in recent years, many ATVs have evolved with fewer projecting components and greater use of flexible body panels. The emphasis being should an overturn take place, the rider should sustain a lower level of injury as he/she is thrown clear of the machine.

It is also a view held by the AEA which supports Dynamic Researchs findings.

"The industrys objective is to provide a safer product for farmers and this research supports such an objective," explains Ron Saunders, AEA technical director.

"The best preventative measure the industry can take is to provide even better rider training programmes and for riders to wear helmets wherever practicable."

The ATV roll-bar debate continues. Would a roll-bar be of ultimate benefit to this cavalier approach to ATV riding. BATVA believes it would not.