Most ATV crashes occur on roads, insurance group says

Publish Date: 
Jan 2, 2014

ARLINGTON, Va., - About 1,700 ATV riders died between 2007 and 2011 as a result of crashes on public roads in the United States, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Two-thirds of fatal ATV crashes occur on public or private roads, not off-road, the organization stated.

"These vehicles are designed for off-road use, yet most of the fatal crashes are occurring on roads," says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research and a co-author of the study.

The study found that the vast majority of ATV riders killed in crashes on public roads are 16 or older and male. Few of the fatally injured riders wear helmets, and many are impaired by alcohol.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) conducts a yearly census of ATV rider deaths, including deaths on public roads, on private roads and off road. Between 1986 and 1998, ATV deaths averaged 227 a year, but then increased to more than 800 in 2007, the last year for which complete CPSC data are available. In 2007, 65 percent of the deaths for which a location was identified took place on public or private roads. The agency estimates that 10.6 million ATVs were in use in the U.S. in 2010, compared with 5.6 million in 2001.

For the Institute study of ATV rider deaths from 2007 through 2011, researchers turned to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Although this database includes only fatal crashes on public roads, its data are more recent and more comprehensive than what is available from the CPSC.

A total of 1,701 ATV riders were killed on public roads in the five-year period. Some ATVs can carry passengers, but nearly 9 out of 10 riders killed were drivers.

Rider fatalities during the five-year period peaked in 2008, declining 19 percent by 2011. As with the recent decline in motor vehicle fatalities generally, much of the drop is believed to be connected to the recent economic recession.

Crashes occurred primarily in rural areas. No crashes occurred in New Hampshire or the District of Columbia. The highest numbers of deaths occurred in Kentucky (122), Pennsylvania (97), West Virginia (96) and Texas (95). West Virginia had the highest rate of ATV rider deaths (105 per 10 million people), and Wyoming was a distant second with 70.

Only 13 percent of drivers and 6 percent of passengers killed were wearing helmets at the time. Among fatally injured ATV drivers, 43 percent had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or greater, compared with about one-third of passenger vehicle and motorcycle drivers.

Fatal ATV crashes are more likely than other fatal crashes to involve a single vehicle. Three-quarters of the fatal crashes in the study involved just one ATV, while only 46 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2007-11 were single-vehicle crashes. Of the single-vehicle fatal ATV crashes, 56 percent involved a rollover.

Much attention has been paid to ATV fatalities among children, but in recent years most fatally injured ATV riders have been men. Ninety percent of the ATV driver deaths in the federal government's database of fatal crashes were 16 and older, and 90 percent were male, researchers noted.

IIHS suggests addressing the danger of ATVs traveling on paved surfaces by strengthening laws that prohibit the vehicles on public roads, since most are paved; require riders to wear helmets; and for OEMs to improve vehicle stability to prevent rollovers without sacrificing off-road capabilities.

Posted by Holly Wagner