All-Terrain Vehicle Fatalities on Paved Roads, Unpaved Roads, and Off-Road: Evidence for Informed Roadway Safety Warnings and Legislation

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are designed for off-highway use only, and many of their features create increased risk with roadway travel. Over half of all ATV-related fatalities occur on roadways, and nonfatal roadway crashes result in more serious injuries than those off the road. A number of jurisdictions have passed or have considered legislation allowing ATVs on public roadways, sometimes limiting them to those unpaved, arguing that they are safe for ATVs. However, no studies have determined the epidemiology of ATV-related fatalities on different road surface types. The objective of the study was to compare ATV-related deaths on paved versus unpaved roads and to contrast them with off-road fatalities. Retrospective descriptive and multivariable analyses were performed using U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission fatality data from 1982 through 2012. After 1998, ATV-related deaths increased at twice the rate on paved versus unpaved roads. Still, 42% of all roadway deaths during the study period occurred on unpaved surfaces. States varied considerably, ranging from 18% to 79% of their ATV-related roadway deaths occurring on unpaved roads. Paved road crashes were more likely than those on unpaved surfaces to involve males, adolescents and younger adults, passengers, and collisions with other vehicles. Both the pattern of other vehicles involved in collisions and which vehicle hit the other were different for the 2 road types. Alcohol use was higher, helmet use was lower, and head injuries were more likely in paved versus unpaved roadway crashes. However, head injuries still occurred in 76% of fatalities on unpaved roads. Helmets were associated with lower proportions of head injuries among riders, regardless of road surface type. Relative to off-road crashes, both paved and unpaved roads were more likely to involve collisions with another vehicle. The vast majority of roadway crashes, however, did not involve a traffic collision on either paved or unpaved roads. Although differences were observed between paved and unpaved roads, our results show that riding on either represented significantly greater dangers than riding off the road. Many vehicle warnings specifically mention the risks of paved but not unpaved roads, yet the authors found 23 states with half or more of their roadway deaths on unpaved surfaces. Safety warnings should explicitly state the dangers of roadway riding regardless of surface type. These data further support laws/ordinances greatly restricting ATV riding on all types of public roadways.


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  • Accession Number: 01599547
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 26 2016 3:00PM