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Stop the blight of illegal quads on our streets

In my column in today's T&A, I talk about the menace of anti-social quads on our streets. (Photo credit West Yorkshire Police)

Restrictions introduced in December to deal with Omicron are now coming to an end. I’ve been consistent in saying that our hard-won freedoms are thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of the public who’ve followed the rules these last two years. And, while we’re all eager to get back to a life of normality as soon as possible, we must still be cautious. I urge the Prime Minister to make sure vital public health decisions are based on the science and not a panicked response to garner favour with the public after weeks mired in scandal, both nationally and locally, that we are all too familiar with.

However, I don’t want to focus on the Prime Minister’s rudderless steering of his government. I’d like to talk about an issue closer to home.

Since I was first elected, I have campaigned for better road safety, supporting the T&A’s own Stop the Danger Driver campaign, working extensively with road charity Brake and last year backing a bill bringing in tougher sentences for drivers who cause death by dangerous driving. But there is still more to do.

Readers will know that anti-social use of quad bikes is an issue that is regularly reported on in the Telegraph & Argus.

Quad bikes are important tools in many industries, in particular farming, forestry and land management. There is also a well-established use for legitimate off-road sports and recreation as part of organised clubs.

However, they are a menace across the district and many people in my constituency of Bradford South have been in contact about the danger they pose. People are plagued by quads driving up and down our roads and pavements. The majority of these are not road legal, permitted only for off-road use, on private land and with landowner’s permission – not the street.

For their small size, quads are powerful vehicles, and their use on green spaces causes significant damage to grass verges and sports fields. On more than one occasion, I have heard from local sports clubs who’ve been unable to host their weekend football matches due to damage to the pitch from quads.

More seriously, there have been several reports in recent years of tragic losses of life involving the use of quads on roads – invariably young adults who still had had their whole lives ahead of them.

Most quads are permitted for off-road use only precisely because they do not meet life-saving road safety standards. In untrained hands and used improperly, they can be deadly weapons.

Combine this with the fact that wearing a helmet is not mandatory, merely a recommendation on a quad bike, the statistics are frightening; one study shows that a quad user on the road is twice as likely to be in an accident-causing injury than a car, and ten times more likely to be killed or seriously injured.

I fear it is only a matter of time before another serious incident occurs with loss of life involving pedestrians, other innocent road users or the riders themselves.

This is why, in March, I am moving my own Bill in Parliament to tackle the anti-social use of quad bikes.

In my bill, I want to protect the many legitimate uses of quad bikes and enact changes that make it harder for quad vehicles to be used illegally on our highways to improve safety for all road users.

Firstly, my bill will call for an important change to make wearing a helmet mandatory for all riders and passengers on quads – not just a recommendation. In Northern Ireland, quad users face a £500 fine for riding without a helmet. No such law exists in England and Wales.

Secondly, my bill will propose changes to the registration schemes that will tie the vehicle to its owner for a specific purpose. This will reduce access to these vehicles to those who have no legitimate reason for their use. I also want owners of off-road quads to register their vehicle on the DVLA Off Road Register. We know that much anti-social use of these vehicles does not come from legitimate owners, but rather through stolen vehicles. When police are able to use powers to seize these vehicles, they are often unable to return them to their rightful owner due to lack of registration.

I am also working with police and other stakeholders to explore what extra powers and resources they believe they need to better enforce existing legislation to keep road users and pedestrians safe. A change in the law is long overdue.

Finally, I welcome the setting up of a new body to deliver children’s services. This is an opportunity for the fresh start that is clearly needed for the children of Bradford. I also welcome government assurances to me regarding extra support that will be available.

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