All-Terrain Vehicles Dangerous on Both Paved and Unpaved Roads: Restricting Public Roadway Use
Methods: Retrospective descriptive and multivariable analyses were performed using Consumer Product Safety Commission fatality data.
Results: From 1985-2009, road surface type was recorded for 5,351 ATV-related roadway fatalities. Overall, 43% occurred on unpaved roads. However, fatalities on paved roads increased at twice the rate of those on unpaved roads from 1998-2006. Older teens and younger adults had the highest proportions killed on paved as compared to unpaved roads. Alcohol was involved in 45% of all roadway crashes, but was seen in a higher proportion of paved road fatalities (47% vs. 43% unpaved, p=0.015). There were no differences in the sizes of vehicles involved in fatal crashes on paved versus unpaved roads from1998-2009, despite vehicle engine sizes rapidly increasing. Fatalities on unpaved roads were less likely to involve a collision with another vehicle (13% vs. 30% paved, p<0.0001). On paved roads, automobiles were the vehicles most likely to be involved in a collision and the ATV was more likely to have been struck by the vehicle. For unpaved road collisions, trucks or other vehicles were more likely to have been involved, and the ATV was more likely to have run into the other vehicle. Overall, roadway helmet use was low (15%). However, helmet use was significantly less (13% vs. 19% unpaved, p<0.0001) and, subsequently, the proportion of head injuries significantly higher (71% vs. 61% unpaved, p<0.0001) among fatal crash victims riding on paved roads. Although there were no differences in head injuries among collision victims, rollovers on paved roads were more likely to be associated with head injuries than rollovers on unpaved roads.
Conclusion: A significant percentage of public roadway ATV-related fatalities occur on unpaved roads despite the fact that such victims are less likely to have alcohol involved, more likely to be helmeted, and less likely to have been struck by a motor vehicle. ATVs are not designed for roadway surfaces, and unpaved roads are not particularly safer for ATV travel than those that are paved. To improve public safety, governing bodies should greatly restrict all ATV roadway use and strongly enforce such regulations, not the opposite.