All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a popular choice by many for enjoying Iowa’s great outdoors. Farmers and others also rely on the larger UTVs (utility task vehicles) for accessing crops, pastures and other vast stretches of land as well as for recreation.
But along with the practical and entertainment uses are disturbing statistics over fatalities and severe injuries over the past four decades. The U.S. Product Safety Commission says that more than 16,000 deaths related to ATVs occurred between 1982 and 2018. Iowa reported 197 deaths during that period, and two more severe accidents happened here in the past week, one involving a 13-year-old boy.
Common ATV accident injuries
More than one out of five fatal ATV accidents involve a victim under 18. Iowa requires riders ages 12 to 17 to complete an approved ATV safety course. But helmets are only required for those riding in the state’s OHV parks. The majority of fatalities involve riders not wearing a helmet. The most common injuries occur to:
- Arms – 29%
- Head/neck – 29%
- Legs – 22%
- Torso – 21%
ATV crash causes
Driver error and inexperience are often at fault for ATV accidents. At the same time, hazards, such as steep terrain, blind corners, potholes, flooding and other unmarked areas can magnify the risk for all riders, especially those with little or no experience. But equipment malfunctions can also result in injuries. Potentially defective parts include:
- Steering systems
Product liability claims against manufacturers, including Polaris, Arctic Cat and John Deere can result but these are typically complex cases.
How to stay safe on your ATV
For anyone riding an all-terrain vehicle, especially children, here are some necessary safeguards to observe:
- Always wear a helmet
- Adults should also take a safety course before riding
- Wear protective clothing, such as jeans, long sleeves, gloves and boots
- Ride only during the daytime
- Avoid riding a three-wheeler
- Never ride while drinking or using drugs
- Avoid highways and paved surfaces
- Don’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommended passenger limits
- Don’t allow kids and teens to drive with a passenger
Riding an ATV can be incredibly enjoyable. But it’s crucial to take steps to make sure it’s a safe experience. When negligence results in injuries, seeking experienced legal guidance is advisable to hold other parties accountable.