Tips For Preventing ATV Accidents

“Crunch time” – that’s what they call the period from May through September, when ATV-related incidents are at their peak. ATVs have become increasingly popular; dealers reported sales of 228,305 new ATVs in 2013. Sadly, each year thousands of riders are injured or killed while out on an ATV adventure.

During the first week of June, we read of six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken being critically injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident in Arizona. Amy hit a curb in a restaurant parking lot and went over a dropoff of 5 to 7 feet. The accident severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebrae; slivers of bone narrowly missed rupturing her aorta. After being airlifted to a hospital in Scottsdale, Amy underwent surgery to stabilize the spine. She remains paralyzed and has a long road ahead of her in rehabilitation.

ATV Injuries: More Common Than You Think

Amy’s accident shares some of the characteristics of the majority of ATV accidents:

  • She was not wearing a helmet. (In 56.9% of injury cases, the rider was not wearing a helmet.)
  • Her ATV overturned. (ATVs overturn in 60.3% of injury accidents.)
  • Her accident involved a collision, in this case with a curb, as do the majority of ATV injury accidents.

These figures come from a report issued in May of 2014 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In total, for the year 2010, there were 101,000 ATV injuries requiring treatment in an emergency room. The CPSC’s latest fatality numbers relate to the years 2005 through 2007, when there were 2,321 ATV-related deaths. More than half of them (60.6%) were caused by the vehicle’s overturning.

Although Amy Van Dyken is a few years older, usually those injured on ATVs are under 35 years of age (in fact, 76.7% of them), and 20.9% of injured drivers are under 16 years of age.

Injuries in ATV accidents range from contusions to broken bones and happen in about equal numbers to extremities (shoulder, arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet and toes), torso (anything between the neck and legs), and head (head, face, neck).

Besides collisions, events leading to injury include making a turn, failing to turn, overturning, striking a hole or bump, and navigating a slope. The majority of injuries occur in a field, woods or yard, at a speed of less than 10 miles per hour, and on flat terrain.

Tips For Preventing ATV Accidents

Now here’s the kicker, and the key to preventing ATV injuries and deaths: The majority of the injuries in the CPSC study were related to a driver who learned from a friend or relative how to drive the ATV. Only 2.5% of the injured drivers had learned to drive an ATV by taking a training course, so obviously getting professional instruction goes a long way toward making ATV use safer. Makers are now required under law to offer hands-on training to purchasers of new ATVs, but consumers aren’t required to take it.

ATVs & South Carolina Laws

Are there laws on the books regarding ATV use? Each state chooses whether or not to set any requirements, and there’s no single rule which all 50 U.S. states have in common. These are the rules in South Carolina:

  • Operators under age 16 may not carry passengers.
  • Operators under age 15 must complete the “hands on” ATV safety course and carry a certificate of completion while riding.
  • Operators under 16 years of age must wear a helmet and eye protection.
  • The minimum age to operate an ATV on private land is six (!!!) years old.
  • A person under age 16 may not operate an ATV on private land in violation of the age restriction warning label affixed by the manufacturer.
  • A person under the age of 16 may not operate an ATV on public lands unless accompanied by an adult.
  • ATVS are permitted to operate on state park and forest lands only on designated trails. Operation on roadways within state parks and forests is permitted only by street legal vehicles.
  • There are no designated trails in any state parks; therefore ATVs may not be operated in parks. There are 3 OHV (off-highway vehicle) trails in the state forest system.

Vehicle Recalls & ATVs

ATVs, just like cars and trucks, are subject to recalls when dangerous defects become known. In the past year and a half, recalls have been issued on the following models: American Honda Foreman ATV, recalled in October 2013 because its steering shaft can break unexpectedly and cause the rider to lose steering control and crash; Yamaha Big Bear ATV, recalled in July 2013 due to the possibility that the front shock absorber can break apart and cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle; American Honda FourTrax, recalled in December 2012 because separation of a weld on the ATV’s front right and left upper suspension arms can separate, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

For your safety and the well-being of your children, follow these rules when riding an ATV:

  • Do not drive ATVs on paved roads. ATVs are designed to be driven off-road terrain and are difficult to control on paved roads where they are at risk of overturning or colliding with cars and trucks.
  • Do not allow a child under 16 to drive or ride an adult ATV.
  • Do not drive ATVs with a passenger or ride as a passenger.
  • Always wear a helmet and other protective gear such as eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Last, but first, take a hands-on safety training course.

If you’re involved in an ATV crash during crunch time, call the ATV injury lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm. We have eight decades of combined legal expertise, so we know how to appraise the situation in which you were injured in order to determine whether negligence was involved on the part of the manufacturer, dealer, owner, or other party, and we know what it takes to win compensation for you that will help you recover from your accident and get your life back on course. Call us at (803) 454-1200.

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