In the spring-summer season of 2013, an alarming increase of accidents and injuries involving All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) have been reported. ATVs come in a variety of configurations, including models large enough for four riders. The more commonly known ATV is also referred to as a “quad” or “4-wheeler” and is set up much like a snowmobile or motorcycle but ridden on a set of four wheels.
Antiquated 3-wheel ATVs still exist (also called “trikes”), but are no longer legal to manufacture due to their instability and high potential for a frontward rollover. While still dangerous, 4-wheel ATVs are considered to be more stable.
Warnings Fail to Reduce ATV Accident Injuries
Each year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues warnings about the accident risks involving ATVs. Despite prominent campaigns to increase safety awareness, the number of new injury cases reported by emergency rooms each year has either remained relatively constant or has increased.
As of 2013, the CPSC reports approximately 135,000 ATV accident-related injuries across the US. These accidents result in nearly 800 fatalities each year, most of which are children.
One infamous ATV accident led to the death of former Dave Matthews Band saxophonist, LeRoi Moore. In 2008, Mr. Moore was riding his ATV on his farm and hit a ditch that was obscured by tall grass. The unexpected change in terrain was enough to flip the ATV, causing it to land on Moore. He suffered several broken ribs and a punctured lung. Though he was initially released from the hospital, he was readmitted a few weeks later and died from complications that doctors attributed to the ATV accident.
Recent ATV Accidents and Injuries
The early summer of 2013 has seen its share of ATV tragedies in news headlines. Since July 1st, at least nine ATV accidents were reported in the Southeast resulting in three deaths and ten injuries. One of the cases involved a Georgia teen who was riding as a passenger and was killed when she was thrown from the ATV onto hard pavement. Two of the other accidents took place in Missouri; five year old operating an ATV was injured as were a 16-year old operator and the three year old passenger riding with her.
It is very important to note that the vast majority of ATVs (quads/4-wheelers) are meant for single riders only and are not designed with seating or foot pegs for passengers.
Furthermore, manufacturers of ATVs and other personal recreational vehicles provide placards and warning labels with each piece of equipment warning against the operation by any person under the age of 16.
The Struggle to Increase ATV Rider Safety
Many states also have laws or statutes in place governing the ATV operation. Some states require riders to attend safety training courses prior to operation. Others enforce manufacturer recommendations and prohibit riders under the age 16. In nearly all states, ATVs are banned from use on paved public roads. Their short wheel base and high center of gravity makes ATVs highly accident prone on level surfaces like pavement, especially when coupled with speed capabilities beyond 60mph. ATVs are designed to navigate uneven terrain at safe, moderate speeds and are not intended to provide a stable riding platform at a high rate of speed. Racing ATV models are designed for professional competition and perform much differently from those commonly sold to the public.
Many safety advocates argue that injuries can be reduced by spreading awareness through rural communities, particularly starting at the middle and high school levels. A more thorough understanding of the equipment’s purpose, capabilities, and limitations may give the next generation of ridersgreater respect for safety and a heightened level of situational awareness.