All-Terrain Vehicles Dangerous on Both Paved and Unpaved Roads: Restricting Public Roadway Use

Monday, October 13, 2014
Marriott Hall 6 (San Diego Marriott Marquis )
Charles A. Jennissen, MD1, Gerene M. C. Denning, PhD1 and Karisa K. Harland, PhD2, (1)Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Children's Hospital and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA, (2)Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Iowa Children's Hospital and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and Injury Prevention Research Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Purpose: Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of municipalities, counties and states adopting regulations and passing legislation allowing all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on public roads, particularly unpaved roads. Numerous studies have identified riding on public roads as an independent risk factor, and over one-half of all ATV-related deaths are from roadway crashes. Little is known, however, about how roadway type (paved vs. unpaved) might affect ATV crash mechanism and injury. Our objective was to compare the demographics, vehicle-related factors, crash mechanisms and injuries for fatal crashes on paved versus unpaved roads.

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.