Know the dangers of ATVs and how to avoid accidents
The dangers of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are well-documented, with more than 14,000 people, including 3,200 children age 15 or younger, killed in ATV crashes in the U.S. since 1980.
Unfortunately, over half of the fatalities occur on public or private roads, despite the fact that ATV manufacturers are required to display safety warnings on the vehicles that they are not safe to drive on roadways.
Despite the fatalities, injuries and warnings, more than two-thirds of the states in the U.S., including Wisconsin, allow ATVs on some public roads. Last year, the Juneau County cities of New Lisbon and Mauston opened up almost all of their streets to ATVS or ROVs (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles). The year before, the city of Eagle River did the same thing. There are others as well, despite the concerns of safety advocates.
The dangers of riding an ATV
ATVs have many purposes. Farmers and their workers use them to survey fields, haul crops and supplies, and oversee livestock and grazing areas. They are also recreational vehicles used on off-road, mountainous, rural, and coastal terrain. However, they are not made to drive on paved roads.
Although ATVs and other off-highway vehicles can obtain highway speeds, their low-pressure tires and high center of gravity make them prone to tip over or go out of control.
According to Wisconsin’s state Department of Natural Resources, in 2016, 14 of the 22 fatal ATV or UTV crashes occurred on paved roads. Flipping and rolling, the most common types of accidents caused the majority of injuries and fatalities, by pinning the driver and/or passenger down, or by ejecting them.
The high incidence of children injured in ATV accidents is due to their lack of actual physical strength and the lack of refined cognitive and fine motor skills. Studies show that children and teens have a higher incidence of head injuries and other severe injuries than any other age group.
Injuries caused by ATV accidents
The most common types of injuries treated in emergency rooms due to ATV accidents are head injuries, contusions, and fractures involving the neck, arms, spine and legs.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is one of the most serious injuries that can occur from an ATV wreck. Such injuries include concussions, neurologic, spinal cord, and neck damage. These non-fatal injuries can affect a person’s life forever, and require years of extensive and costly medical care.
How to avoid ATV accidents
Wisconsin law requires all riders born after January 1, 1988 and those that are over the age of 12 to complete an approved ATV Safety Course and carry the Wisconsin ATV Safety Certificate with them while driving on public lands.
Here are some safety tips to help avoid ATV-related injuries and fatalities.
Never carry a passenger on the back. ATVs are not stable and the weight of the passenger can result in a rollover.
Do not speed.
Never drive ATVs on paved roads, even if it is allowed.
Always stay on designated trails.
Obtain a landowner’s permission before driving on his land.
To find out about open ATV trails or routes, contact the landowner or land management agency.
Do not allow a child under 16 to drive an ATV, even though Wisconsin law permits children 12 and younger to do so under certain conditions. Most just don’t have the judgment or physical capacity to drive one safely.
Always wear protective gear, such as a helmet, goggles, boots, gloves, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts.
Make sure all drivers are well-versed in driving an ATV, including the limitations of the vehicle, as well as the terrain for which it is intended.
Be sure all drivers receive the required safety training and practical experience operating an ATV.
Never drive an ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Make sure you have a cell phone or walkie-talkie to call for help in an emergency.
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