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Off-highway vehicles: Use caution as deaths, injuries increase during summer months

ATV Green Deaths Injuries UpIn 2022 so far, 194 off-highway-vehicle or OHV deaths have occurred, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

OHVs are all-terrain vehicles or ATVs, recreational off-highway vehicles or ROVs, and utility task vehicles or UTVs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission collects death and injury data related to ATV use but there’s a significant time lag in the data – the 2013 report, for example, was released in 2015 and the most recent complete data in that report was from 2009.

The federation and its OHV Safety Coalition began collecting data in 2013 so that decision makers and the public would have the most up-to-date data on OHVs.

Children under the age of 16 make up the most deaths, about 21.6 percent of all OHV deaths so far this year.  

In 2021, children under 16 also were the highest number of tracked OHV deaths at 18.7 percent, and in 2020 they were the second highest number at 15.8 percent.

Since 2019, children under the age of 16 have ranked in the top three age categories of OHV deaths. Last year, children under 16 were the age group with the highest number of OHV deaths, a statistic that hasn’t occurred since 2015.

For the past five years, children aged 5 and under have accounted for an increasing number of deaths.

“Children under 16 continue to suffer the largest percentage of OHV fatalities,” said Rachel Weintraub, legislative director and general counsel for the federation. “As summer begins, we hope that OHV incidents will not remain as high and urge caution to OHV riders.”

From 2013 through 2021, July has been the month with the most OHV deaths with May, August, and June following as the second, third, and fourth months.

“All OHVs, even youth models, pose risks,” said Gary Smith, M.D., president of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance. “OHVs are fast, complex machines, and due to their design, they roll over easily. One wrong choice could lead to the emergency department or worse.”

Children younger than 16 years just aren’t ready for the demands of safe riding, so the alliance encourages parents to find a different activity for their child, Smith said.

The federation and its OHV Safety Coalition gather information from newspaper and government resources. From 2013 through 2021, they’ve documented 729 total deaths during the month of July for those years. For 2013-2021, the federation has documented more than 5,478 deaths.

While these numbers are high, these findings aren’t complete, and the number of deaths will likely increase as additional information becomes available, Weintraub said.

OHV Deaths in Each State

OHV deaths in each state

From January 2013 through December 2021, the states with the most deaths were: (1) Pennsylvania, 294; (2) Texas, 274; (3) Missouri, 226; (4) California, 224; and (5) Wisconsin, 223. The map above shows the number of deaths for each state.

The most OHV fatalities occur on July 4th

The federation data from 2013 through 2021 show that the most deaths for all people, children and adults, occurred on July 4th. Of the total 69 recorded deaths on July 4th occurring from 2013 through 2021, 17 were children under 16, making up a quarter of all deaths.

“On no other day of the year were there double-digit deaths for children age 16 or younger,” said Weintraub.

How to avoid injury and death

The federation urges consumers to take the following steps to reduce OHV deaths and injuries:

  • Never operate an OHV on a road.
  • Never permit children younger than 16 years old to operate an adult-size OHV or any OHV that is too large or too powerful for them.
  • Always wear a helmet and other protective gear when riding an OHV.
  • Always wear seat belts when riding an OHV if it has them.
  • Never allow more people on an OHV than it was designed to carry.
  • Never ride when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Take a hands-on safety course.

Prevent Child Injury has a ATV safety toolkit available at https://www.preventchildinjury.org/toolkits/atv-safety to help parents learn about the risks of children using ATVs.

An incident or injury involving an OHV can be reported to the CPSC at www.cpsc.gov.

Weintraub said the federation data are likely an underestimate of actual deaths, and it updates the data as information is obtained. The data are available on the organization’s website.

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