All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are optimized for driving off road on various types of unpaved trails. Their design is different from cars, with three or four low-pressure or nonpneumatic tires, handlebars for steering, and a straddle-type seat.
ATV riders control braking and acceleration by using a thumb throttle or twist throttle. People operate ATVs primarily for recreation, although some are designed for work use.
Riding an ATV can be fun, but it is also dangerous. Each year, thousands of ATV riders in the United States seek medical treatment for severe injuries from ATV accidents. Hundreds of individuals, including many children, die every year riding ATVs. If you are injured in an ATV accident, contact an ATV accident lawyer to protect your rights.
Research suggests that ATVs are more dangerous to operate than off-road motorcycles or cars. According to one study by Johns Hopkins Medicine, accidents involving four-wheel ATVs inflict far more severe injuries than accidents involving two-wheel, off-road motorcycles.
The study found that people injured in ATV accidents versus motorcycle accidents were 55 percent more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) and 50 percent more likely to suffer fatal injuries.
Evidence suggests that ATVs are also more dangerous to operate than cars. Unlike cars, ATVs are open, and occupants can be quickly ejected if a vehicle tips over. Many serious injuries happen when an ATV rolls over on an operator. Other reasons why ATVs can be more dangerous to operate than cars include but are not limited to the following:
Each year, hospital emergency rooms treat approximately 100,000 injuries caused by ATV accidents. However, because many people do not report ATV accidents, the injury rate is likely much higher. This injury rate may climb as the ATV market is projected to grow about five percent each year.
Ride ATVs only on designated trails, and always wear a helmet!
The most common injures in ATV accidents include the following:
Sprains, strains, and dislocated knees, elbows, or shoulders are also common in ATV accidents. Unfortunately, many riders die each year due to their injuries. More than one-third of all those injured in ATV accidents are children or teenagers.
There are many ways ATV riders can minimize the risk of injury, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
Wearing a helmet can help minimize the risk of serious traumatic brain injury. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in at least 80 percent of fatal ATV accidents, the injured party was not wearing a helmet.
Another good way to minimize the risk of injury is to learn and understand the different types of ATVs available.
There are two basic types of ATVs available on the market today:
ATV users must recognize that ATVs are not one-size-fits-all, even within each type. Manufacturers produce different sizes of ATVs, and each vehicle includes a warning label specifying the minimum age recommendation. In states where it is legal for minors to ride ATVs, look for youth models that generally operate at slower speeds and better accommodate smaller hands and feet.
A utility terrain vehicle (UTV) is different from an ATV. It has features designed more for work than recreation and is more like a car. It has a steering wheel and can typically accommodate two to four passengers. UTV operators control braking and acceleration by using foot pedals. UTVs are also more likely to be equipped with seat belts or other safety equipment. They may also include a windshield or an open or enclosed cabin.
UTVs typically include storage space to haul equipment on farms or other locations where maneuvering a truck may be impossible.
ATV riders must always know if the trails they plan to use are open for ATV use. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) establishes and enforces rules for riding ATVs statewide.
According to the DCNR, riding an ATV is permitted in Pennsylvania in the following locations:
However, municipal ordinances may further regulate the use of ATVs on roads or private properties within their jurisdiction. Also, state forest roads and state game lands are not open to ATV riding unless there is a designated trail.
ATV riders may face citations and fines in Pennsylvania if they do the following:
Fines for first offenses range from $50 to $200 plus prosecution costs. A second offense carries a penalty of $100 to $300 plus prosecution costs. ATV owners who do not register their vehicles or obtain liability insurance are subject to an automatic $300 fine, plus prosecution costs.
Some minors are allowed to operate ATVs; however, laws vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, children cannot operate ATVs anywhere other than private property owned or leased by a parent or guardian. They must have a valid safety certificate or be under the direct supervision of a certified instructor. Children must be at least 8 years old to obtain a valid safety certificate in Pennsylvania.
Parents considering an ATV safety certificate for their children should also evaluate the many risks involved in ATV operation. More than 25 percent of all serious ATV accidents involve children and teenagers under 18 years old.
According to the ATV Safety Institute, parents should do the following before allowing their children to use an ATV:
Children must be able to see well enough to operate an ATV. Their peripheral vision must be excellent to see what is happening on both sides of the ATV while they are driving. The ability to judge distance is also crucial to the safe operation of an ATV.
Children should have enough strength and coordination in their fingers, hands, and arms to operate the handlebars for steering as well as the throttle for braking and acceleration.
Emotional development is as critical as physical strength. Children who do not like to obey rules or are reckless on a bike or skateboard should not operate an ATV. Signs of ATV readiness include consistently looking both ways before crossing a street, safe and skilled bike riding, and openness to wearing a helmet. Children, who lack coordination, balance, and reasoning skills should not operate an ATV.
Parents should always closely supervise a child on an ATV, ensuring they have the skills and judgment to operate the vehicle safely.
ATV accidents happen for many reasons like car accidents or truck accidents. However, unlike other auto accidents, many ATV accidents occur when the owner permits someone to use an ATV when that person should not. It could be a child, an inexperienced rider, or a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Common causes of ATV accidents include but are not limited to the following:
The underlying cause of an ATV accident may not be immediately apparent. That is why anyone involved in an ATV accident should contact a lawyer who can initiate an investigation to determine the accident’s cause and who is liable.
If you are injured in an ATV accident, seek medical treatment as soon as possible, even if you think your injuries are minor. Some injuries, such as sprains or back pain, do not become evident until days later. Also, any delay in seeking medical care may give an insurer reason to deny paying an insurance claim.
You should also contact a lawyer if you are injured in an ATV accident, no matter whom you believe was at fault. The ATV manufacturer or dealer who sold you the vehicle could be liable for the accident if parts are defective.
In addition, if your accident was on the private property of an owner responsible for maintaining the ATV trail for public access, the owner could be held liable for injuries caused by a steep drop-off, potholes, or another unmarked hazard.
If the ATV accident involved children, a premises owner who allowed the child to ride the ATV can be held liable.
Our Philadelphia ATV accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have years of experience representing those injured in ATV-related accidents and their families. Galfand Berger LLP has obtained millions of dollars in settlements, including the following:
Although each case is different and recovery of damages always depends on the circumstances of the accident, our legal team works tirelessly to preserve our clients’ rights.
Riding an ATV can be fun, but there are dangers involved. If you have been injured in an ATV accident, reach out to our Philadelphia ATV accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Our experienced legal team will protect your rights. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.