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Off-Highway Vehicle Parks: Do Increased Regulations and Enforcement Improve All-Terrain Vehicle Safety?

Monday, October 22, 2012
Versailles Ballroom (Hilton Riverside)
Gerene M. C. Denning, Charles A. Jennissen, MD, FACEP, Karisa K. Harland, David Ellis and Christopher T. Buresh, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Children's Hospital and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA

Purpose: All-terrain vehicle (ATV) popularity has risen dramatically in the past fifteen years and has been accompanied by an even greater increase in crash-related deaths and injuries. The number of off-highway vehicle (OHV) parks, both public and private, continues to grow to meet the recreational needs of ATV enthusiasts. These parks require users to obey all state laws, often have additional safety regulations, and in our state have personnel dedicated to enforcement of laws and regulations. Little is known about how OHV park regulations and enforcement affects ATV user behavior and safety. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there were any differences in crash mechanisms and/or compliance with ATV safety laws and regulations when comparing off-road ATV crashes inside and outside state OHV parks.

Methods: Data were derived from our statewide ATV injury surveillance database (2002-2009). Descriptive analyses were performed for demographics, risk factors (e.g., carrying passengers), crash mechanisms, and outcomes of injuries. Comparisons of categorical and continuous variables were performed.

Results: A total of 813 injured persons were included in the final analysis; 6% of victims were from OHV park crashes. Relative to outside the parks, a smaller percentage of park victims were under the age of sixteen (7% vs. 31%, p<0.01), a lower percentage were passengers (2.5% vs. 13%, p=0.07), and a dramatically higher percentage were helmeted (90% vs. 24%, p<0.0001). However, park crashes involved more jump-related injuries (34% vs. 5%, p<0.001). Mean injury severity scores were not different between the two locations, but 5% of victims outside the parks had severe brain injuries (GCS <8) as compared to no park victims.

Conclusion: OHV park crashes involved more jump-related events, suggesting that additional studies of individual parks may be necessary to identify high-risk areas and to improve park safety. However, park victims exhibited better compliance with ATV safety-related laws and regulations and suffered less severe brain injury outcomes. These findings support the hypothesis that ATV safety regulations accompanied by effective enforcement promote safe behaviors that may prevent injuries.