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Risky Behavior Cited in Most ATV Fatalities

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) drivers may be riskier operators than motorcyclists, according to new data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  

Of the individuals involved in fatal ATV crashes in recent years, 87% were not wearing helmets and almost half were drunk, reports the IIHS.

In comparison, more motorcyclists killed in crashes were following safety procedures—46% were wearing helmets—and according to the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration information, helmet use among motorcyclists increased by 19% within the last four years.

Only eight states require ATV operators on public roads to wear helmets, while the Governors Highway Safety Administration says half of U.S. states require motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Among killed ATV drivers, 43% had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or greater, compared with a third of passenger vehicle and motorcycle drivers. 

Two thirds of ATV crashes occur on public or private roads, even though they are meant for off-road use: the IIHS says though ATVs can reach highway speeds, their low-pressure tires are not designed for paved surfaces, and many models are prone to rolling over.

Historically, ATV deaths averaged 227 a year but increased to more than 800 in 2007, the last year the Commission Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) monitored the vehicle’s statistics. In the following five years after the Institute picked up the study in 2007, a total of 1,701 ATV riders were killed on public roads.

All terrain vehicle use has also nearly doubled in the past decade, with 10.6 million ATVs on the road in 2010 compared to 5.6 million in 2001. Rider fatalities peaked in 2008, but declined by 19% in 2011.

“As with the recent decline in motor vehicle fatalities generally, much of the drop is believed to be connected to the recent recession,” says the IIHS report.

Most ATV fatalities occurred in rural states, with the highest rate of driver crashes in West Virginia, Wyoming, Montana and Kentucky.

One way to address the danger of ATVs traveling on paved surfaces may be to strengthen laws that prohibit vehicles on paved roads, says the IIHS. Current laws allow them to cross roads or ride alongside road for a limited number of miles.


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