ATVs: Despite declines in injuries to kids, safety still an issue

All-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, quads and four-wheelers, have been popular among outdoor enthusiasts for decades. West Virginia has numerous trails for ATV riders, and riders from instate and out-of-state use the trail systems year round. However, riding an ATV has its drawbacks. As with other motorized vehicles, injuries and death can occur when ATVs are used improperly. Fatalities and serious injuries can also occur due to problems with the manufacture of the vehicles. Recent studies by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Centers for Disease Control contain both good and bad news about ATV safety.

Studies show improved safety record

The CPSC's latest report on ATVs states that approximately 135,000 injuries occur per year in the United States due to ATV use, with 800 deaths. However, the figures for 2011 show an overall decrease in the number of injuries. Although the number of emergency room treated injuries caused by ATV accidents still topped 100,000 in 2011, the total of 107,500 such injuries that year showed a marked decline from the previous years.

The CDC also recently published a study showing that injuries to juveniles who ride ATVs were down in the past few years. The number of fatal injuries to minors also decreased from an all-time high in 2004. Despite the lower rates of injury and death to young people, there is still cause for concern. It seems that the age of children who are killed by ATV accidents is trending younger. Almost half of the children under the age of 16 who were fatally injured while riding ATVs were 12 years old or younger.

Some groups advocate that children under the age of 16 should not be allowed to ride ATVs at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics is one of these groups. One of its greatest concerns about ATVs is that many of the vehicles are not designed for more than one rider, but adults frequently allow their children to ride along with them. This practice makes it more difficult for the adult driver to properly operate the ATV, leading to more accidents. In addition, a majority of the children who died while riding ATVs were riding adult-size vehicles, which is dangerous due to the greater weights and higher speeds of the larger four-wheelers. More accidents are also occurring on paved public roadways, despite regulations restricting the use of four-wheelers on these surfaces.

Researchers have not definitively determined the cause for the decline in ATV-related injuries and deaths, but many cite the recession as a factor. Sales of ATVs were down during the last half of last decade. Also, vehicle driving rates fell as the economy weakened, with some researchers believing that ATV driving rates also decreased. This could not be established, however, as the latest numbers on ATV riding are over 10 years old.

Even if you operate your ATV safely, accidents can still happen. If you or a family member has been injured in an ATV accident, contact an experienced attorney to learn about your rights and whether you may be entitled to compensation under the law.