Three of the four people who died in Ireland as a result of an incident involving a quad bike or scrambler were aged 18 or under, in the period 2014 to 2017, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

The RSA and An Garda Siochana have launched a new public awareness campaign to highlight the dangers quad bikes and scramblers pose to children and to urge parents not to give them as gifts this Christmas.

The casualty figures from the provisional statistics released today also show that, between 2014 and 2017, there were 39 people killed or injured in collisions involving a quad bike or scrambler on a public road. 16 – or 41% – were 18 years-of-age or under.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross commented on the findings.

He said: “The misuse of scramblers and quad bikes is a public safety issue across Ireland and we can see the disastrous impact this can have on families and the wider community.”

Chief executive of the RSA, Moyagh Murdock, also spoke, noting: “Every Christmas, these kinds of vehicles are given as presents, so it’s important people know the risks.

Quad bikes and scramblers are not toys. They are intended to be driven by people who firstly inform themselves of the risk they pose and who are aware of the need for care, particularly when driving on uneven ground.

“If you’re planning to gift a quad bike or scrambler this Christmas, please reconsider. If it’s the thought that counts, please think again.”

Keith Synnott, consultant at the National Spinal Injuries Unit in the Mater hospital – who is fronting the new RSA / Garda radio campaign – also spoke on the matter.

“Quad bikes and scramblers are not toys; they are heavy, dangerous pieces of machinery that can cause life changing injuries or death.

“Riders risk spinal injury following a collision on a quad bike or scrambler.

This could result in paralysis, which can mean being unable to walk or perhaps use your hands to feed yourself and loss of bowel or bladder control. Sometimes, even the inability to breath without the aid of a machine.

Synnott added: “Impacts often happen on areas of uneven ground or as a result of unstable vehicles, especially in the hands of children, leading to people falling and landing awkwardly or the vehicle landing on the rider.”

Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan of the National Roads Policing Unit, An Garda Siochana, said: “We cannot emphasise enough that these are powerful MPVs and in inexperienced hands or on unsuitable terrain they have the potential to severely or even fatally injure someone. That is why they are unsuitable for children.

The last thing anyone wants is a tragedy – especially at Christmas – involving one of these motor vehicles.

The assistant commissioner also added that it must be remembered that quads or scramblers are subject to the same rules as every other vehicle when on public roads.

“They are required to be registered, taxed and in good road-worthy condition. The driver of the vehicle must hold the appropriate driving licence and be insured to drive the vehicle.”