All-terrain vehicles, commonly known as ATVs, are four-wheeled off-road recreational vehicles. When used appropriately, they can be a fun and exciting way to enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, irresponsible ATV drivers often ignore important safety rules and regulations, creating serious risk of death or injury. Weighing more than 800 pounds, ATVs have large, powerful engines that allow them to reach highway speeds-typically up to 50 mph or higher. They have a high center of gravity, no roll bars, safety cages, or seatbelts, and their low-pressure tires are not designed for paved surfaces. This means that they can easily tip or throw riders and passengers off, frequently resulting in serious death or injury.
A recent study found that West Virginia has the nation’s highest rate of fatal ATV accidents. Men sixteen and older were the most likely to die in these crashes, in which few wore helmets and many were impaired by alcohol. It is legal in many states for teens to drive an ATV, even without a driver’s license. In West Virginia, an adult must supervise riders under eighteen years old unless they have a special safety certification. Operators may carry a passenger only if the vehicle is designed to carry more than one person. However, drivers under eighteen may not carry a passenger, and no person may ride as a passenger if they are under eighteen, unless the driver has obtained a level two intermediate driver’s license.
Rollovers are the most common type of ATV accident. This is not only because of their instability, but also because of where and how the machines are driven. Although ATVs are designed to be driven on rough, off-road terrain, many take them onto paved roads. The ATV wheels don’t turn or grip the pavement like car wheels do, so they are more likely to flip when drivers make a sharp turn or quick stop. It is no surprise that head trauma is the number one ATV-related injury. ATV drivers and passengers are not required to wear helmets, though some still do as a precaution. Studies suggest that helmets reduce the risk of fatal head injury by 42 percent and the risk of nonfatal head injury by up to 64 percent. Most injuries and fatalities can be avoided simply by responsibly following the rules and regulations already in place.
If you decide to let your child ride an ATV, make sure he or she follows safety precautions and understands how to safely operate the vehicle, and never allow your child to ride with an irresponsible or intoxicated driver. All-terrain vehicles are relatively safe when used responsibly-just be sure not to let the thrill of the ride cloud your better judgment.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of an ATV accident, it is important to choose and attorney who understands the nuances of how these accidents need to be investigated. At the Manchin Injury Law Group, our attorneys are very familiar with handling these types of claims and are here to help.