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Riding ATVs on unpaved roads just as dangerous as riding on paved roads, study shows

ATV octmtnatv-lowresRiding ATVs on roads is unsafe whether the roads are paved or unpaved, a study published in Traffic Injury Prevention reports.

An earlier study found that more than 60 percent of all ATV-related fatalities in the United States involved roadway crashes. ATV roadway deaths also increased at twice the rate of off-road deaths from 1998-2006.

This latest study shows that from 1982 through 2012, 42 percent of the total 6,625 roadway deaths occurred on unpaved roads.

“Many of the warnings on ATVs specifically mention the hazards of riding ATVs on paved roads,” said Gerene M. Denning, Ph.D., co-author of the study. “But we found 23 states with half or more of their ATV roadway deaths on unpaved road surfaces.”

ATVs aren’t designed for on-road use as manufacturers and safety groups point out. This study adds to the warnings because ATVs on roads are dangerous regardless of the surface type.

“The narrow track, relatively high center of gravity, lack of rear differential on most models of ATVs, and tires designed specifically for off-road use all contribute to extremely complex rider-ATV-roadway surface dynamics,” said Charles Jennissen, M.D., the other co-author of the study. “These dynamics appear to significantly increase the risk of ATV crashes and resulting injuries on both paved and unpaved roads.”

The study finds that safety warnings should state the dangers of roadway riding regardless of the road surface type and supports the need for laws and ordinances restricting ATV riding on all types of roadways, said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for Consumer Federation of America.

“The Consumer Federation of America leads a coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by ATVs with a focus on keeping ATVs off of roads,” said Weintraub. “The data identified in this study clarifies that ATVs should not be on any road whether the surface is paved or not. Some laws and ordinances allow ATV use on unpaved roads but that is not a safe alternative to paved road riding.”

She said manufacturers and regulators should change their warnings and safety language to state that ATVs aren’t safe to ride on any road surface because of:

  • Design elements that make ATVs suitable for an off-road environment but unsuitable for roads of any surface.
  • Higher attainable speeds on roads.
  • Bumps and ruts on unpaved roads that might lead to loss of control when hit at high speed.
  • Increased risk of ATV-vehicle collision – 37 percent of paved roadway deaths; 16 percent of deaths on unpaved roads.
Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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