Vehicle Accidents Happen Off-road, Too

Jeremy Thurman on October 23, 2013

Too often, people think of ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) as toys. While they are often used for recreation, they are still motor vehicles and caution needs to be exercised just as you would for any other car, truck or motorcycle.

Between 1982 and 2011, there were 11,688 ATV-related fatalities reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), with 327 of those occurring in 2011 alone. Of those fatalities, 25 percent were children younger than 16 years old.

One reason why ATVs are so dangerous specifically for children is that a leading cause of ATV-related deaths and injuries is incorrect ATV size. Accidents like rollovers, collisions and ejections are often caused by children who are lacking in physical strength and motor coordination necessary for safe ATV handling. Also, their maturity is limited, so their perception and cognitive ability to react quickly and appropriately in a dangerous situation is not as developed as it would be for an adult.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 16 not ride ATVs or other motorized vehicles (other than cars). Manufacturers have warned that full-sized ATVs are not designed to be driven by children under 16 years old and are dangerous for them to operate.

Lo Riding ATV by B A Bowen Photography, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  B A Bowen Photography

But, the dangers of ATVs are not for kids, alone. Adults, too, need to exercise caution. For one thing, alcohol and ATVs don’t mix. If you’ve been drinking, you wouldn’t drive a car – so don’t drive an ATV, either. Manufacturers of ATVs say that they are safe when used properly. As Honda succinctly puts it, “Ride Smart, Stupid Hurts”. However, not every ATV accident is caused by recklessness or negligence; there are documented stories of experienced, careful riders who perished in ATV crashes. The most common ATV accidents are rollovers, which include both sideways rolls and forward or backward flips. If you’re willing to assume the risk, though, here are a few tips for accident prevention:

  • If you’re going to operate an ATV, complete a driver’s safety and training course.
  • Never ride a three-wheeler. They are dangerous and are no longer allowed to be manufactured.
  • If you’re going to allow a child to ride an ATV (see above), provide constant supervision.
  • Most ATVs are meant for a single rider. Do not allow passengers unless you’re using a two-rider ATV, in which case allow only two riders.
  • Do not operate ATVs on roadways or in the dark. Never ride on paved roads, unless you need to cross. If so, do it safely and where permitted by law. ATVs are designed for off-road travel.
  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet, along with goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Ride at a safe speed.

Again, ATVs are not toys. They can be fun, and they can serve a purpose, but always exercise caution.

Jeremy Thurman

Jeremy Thurman is an attorney at McIntyre Law who focuses primarily on semi-truck accident and catastrophic injury cases. He is known as a meticulous attorney whose work ethic and small town values translate into excellent results for his clients. Read more about Jeremy Thurman.

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