As ATV deaths rise, group seeks to bar on-road use

Email to a Friend

A dramatic increase in all-terrain vehicle deaths that occur on public roads hasn’t slowed states or municipalities from enacting laws to allow increased ATV access to roadways.

A report that was released March 13, 2014, by Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which is a coalition of nonprofit consumer organizations, says warnings from manufacturers, federal agencies and consumer advocates about the hazards of operating an ATV on roads aren’t translating to tougher laws against on-road ATV use. In fact, the opposite is occurring, the report says.

As part of the report, CFA calls for immediate action at the municipal, county, state and federal level to prohibit ATV use on roadways.

“ATVs should not be operated on roads, yet an increasing number of states ignore evidence from consumer advocates, doctors, law enforcement officials and the ATV industry, and pass laws increasing ATV access on roads,” says Rachel Weintraub, who is the legislative director and senior counsel for CFA. “These conflicting messages are leading to consumer confusion about what constitutes safe riding practices. This trend is going in the wrong direction.”

CFA analysis of state laws found that 35 states allow ATVs to be operated on roads in various conditions, such as in areas that have a certain population or for the purpose of getting gasoline. The organization says 22 of the 35 states enacted laws that allow or expand ATV access on roads since 2004.

Further, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says only eight states require ATV operators to wear helmets.

A December 2013 report by IIHS says 1,701 ATV riders were killed on public roads from 2007 to 2011. The insurance organization says 90 percent of the deceased were males, 87 percent weren’t wearing helmets and 43 percent had a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 492 of 758 ATV fatalities, or 64.9 percent, occurred on roads in 2007, which is the most recent year for which CPSC has complete data.

For 1986–1998, CPSC says, ATV deaths averaged 227 per year. In 2007, on-road ATV deaths surged 284 percent from 1998, while off-road ATV deaths soared 155 percent.

CFA says ATVs aren’t designed to be operated on public roads. ATVs have a high center of gravity and a narrow wheelbase compared with that of an automobile, which increases the likelihood that they will tip over, the group says. Furthermore, low-pressure tires that are used on ATVs might not grip a road surface properly, it says.

– K. Carlson