Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Farmers no thrill-seekers

A University of Otago physiotherapy PhD student has found southern farmers are realistic when estimating their risk of having a quad bike accident. Lynne Clay interviewed 216 Otago and Southland farmers, 19% of them dairy farmers, on whether they had a cavalier attitude to riding quad bikes. She carried out the half-hour to hour interviews on farms with the volunteers from September 2011 to September 2012 and found farmers generally didn’t have risk-taking personalities. “There were a set of personality trait questions in the survey which identified thrill seeking behaviours and from them it seems most farmers are not thrill seekers,” she said. “They don’t generally put themselves in positions of risk.”

However, male farmers and those who did show a tendency to be impulsive and thrill seeking were more likely to have a loss-of-control incident. For every 10 years of farmer’s age, their risk of a quad bike loss-of-control event reduced by 20%.

Clay classed a loss-of-control incident as when the farmer had tipped, rolled the quad bike, been thrown off it or had to “abandon ship”. A quarter of the farmers she talked to had never had a loss-of-control incident but some reported as many as 50.  

“I got to hear some pretty horrific stories.”

Whether farms were flat or rolling did not alter the figures and whether farmers had been on a course on riding four-wheelers, which was about a quarter, was also not a significant factor.

“Interestingly the survey results found the more a farmer thought ‘it won’t happen to me’ the fewer loss-of control events they had,” she said.

“I wonder if this may be related to self-confidence or how farmers perceive risk, but I can’t answer that.  It is a very complex issue.”

Clay is now conducting in-depth interviews to research this further and hopes to complete the three-year PhD study by the end of this year.

Of the farmers interviewed, 28% said they always wore helmets when riding a quad bike.

“They were mainly on the Landcorp farms, or on bigger farms where lots of staff were employed such as dairy farms.”

Clay graduated as a physiotherapist in 1989 and had been working for 10 years at Lake Hawea, mainly in rehabilitation, when she decided to begin the PhD.

“This study follows on from the quad bike research done by Associate Professor Stephan Milosavljevic at the School of Physiotherapy,” she said. “He knew I was interested in ‘what makes people tick’ and looking more at the quad bike rider seemed a natural progression.”

Much of the worldwide research into quad bikes accidents had been carried out in the United States and mostly involved recreational riders.  

“There has been little done on farmers using quad bikes as part of their work.”

Clay, from a city background, has never driven a quad bike.  

“I was going to, before I started this research, but then I thought maybe I shouldn’t as it means I can stay open-minded. I have no preconceptions at all.”

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