Posted on Motorcycle Law Blog / Debate Over ATV use on Public Roads

The Debate is on to Open More Public Roads to ATVs

ATV Riding accidents
ATV Injury

What are Some Common ATV Injuries?

ATV deadly accidents keep occurring on roadways, rather than trails, and in recent years have increased in number. All-Terrain Vehicles (Discussed here), are typically designed for fun and recreation, and riders are always seeking virgin grounds to ride upon.

But there is a vast amount of evidence that the vehicles themselves are abnormally dangerous when compared to the two-wheeled bikes that are also used off the road.

When I was growing up, there was a debate about three-wheeled ATV’s. While discontinued by most makers as modern four-wheeled versions. Despite the more stable platform of four tires, the high ride, and potential to roll and be crushed by the vehicle are more significant than other recreational vehicles.

The most current figures for ATV crash fatalities are over 700 people and another 100,000 people injured every year. The data shows approximately two-thirds of the fatal accidents occur either on public or private roadways, instead of on trails.

Despite Death Tolls, the Race is For More Riding Areas.

Even with the deaths and injuries that have increased over recent years on roadways, there is an effort in states, counties, and towns to permit ATVs on more roads. This began in 2012 when local governments in about 18 states opened specific routes to ATV use, and other states have been considering making this same action.

Three states during 2013 have passed legislation to allow authorities to make the determination. They will now decide on whether they would open certain public roadways permitting ATVs on them.

Higher Center of Gravity?

ATVs sold in the United States  have a warning label. Said label must state that these are not vehicles for roadway use. So don’t expect to see them on the freeway anytime soon.

This warning label is there to tell potential buyers about the high center of gravity. And the low tire pressure makes it susceptible to tip over or the rider to lose control on pavement. And even though these vehicles can reach highway speeds, they are not required to meet federal safety standards.

After all, they are not manufactured for use on the roadway like cars and trucks with safety equipment installed such as seatbelts. So, in my opinion, without a roll cage, seatbelts would make these lumbering four wheelers even more dangerous.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission regulates dangerous products, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration oversees traffic safety. The problem is that neither of these agencies has any authority over where the owners of ATV riders use them.

There have been deadly accidents that appear in newspapers across the country involving all-terrain vehicle riders.

  • One of the ATV riders killed was 14-year old Jeret Graham in West Texas, on the back of an ATV driven by his 12-year-old cousin. They sped down a paved stretch of country road when the pre-teen lost control of the all-terrain vehicle. The vehicle went off of the road and into a ditch where the 12-year-old fell off and injured his leg. Jeret was killed instantly, when thrown from the vehicle and struck his head on a cattle guard, which is a barrier made from steel pipes.
  • In August, Chase Roush, age 11, died  in an ATV crash when  driving on a Racine, Ohio road.
  • Two toddlers and Andrea Allen, age 22, died in August while on an ATV with three toddlers in Center Point, Indiana. She went into a ditch when veering off of pavement, where the all-terrain vehicle caught fire killing her, her son, and another toddler.
  • Another August fatality was Tony Stacy, age 52, killed in a collision, when his ATV collided with a pickup truck near Bakersfield, California.
  • Joseph Vandini, age 25, died in North Plymouth, Massachusetts, when he lost control of an ATV hitting a curb and tree. The crash threw him through the plate glass window of a tattoo parlor resulting in fatal head injuries.

What Do Lawmakers and Advocates Say?

In 2013 the lawmakers in Missouri and Michigan gave local governments the power to make decisions about ATV roadway use. The Iowa measure decided that county roads across the state could be opened since rider groups backed them, but local committees stalled this plan temporarily. Local initiatives are moving ahead with the measures proposed.

The same actions or similar ones have taken place by local jurisdictions in various states. These include Colorado, New  York, Georgia, Virginia, Nevada, Oregon, Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Utah, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, New Hampshire, Wisconsin Kansas, and Nebraska.  Washington State passed a law that applies to seven rural counties. It stipulates the all-terrain vehicles travel at a speed of 35 mph or lower.

Proposed ATV Legislation?

This legislation permits counties and municipalities throughout the state to allow higher speed limits for ATVs on roadways. Legislative director and senior counsel for Consumer Federation of America, Rachel Weintraub decried state actions. Other safety advocates concern for more ATV accidents on paved roads.

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission acting chairman Robert Adler spoke. He said the agency studied ATV safety and considers new regulations to govern the design of this type of vehicle.

Adler said this is important since ATVs are built more powerful, more extensive, and making them more dangerous. Ehline Law Firm sees cases like this regularly. Also, we are riders ourselves. In any event, it is doubtful that California will open more unfamiliar public roads to cyclists.

Also, the very fact that so many injuries happen on well-known paths is enough to give any California lawmaker pause. Visit our website here for more info.


ATV Injury Statistics:

Despite the high death toll, the push is on to open more public roads to ATVs:


Ehline Law Firm - Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC
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Michael P. Ehline Esq.
Downtown Los Angeles Corporate Offices

Downtown Los Angeles Office
633 West 5th Street #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071

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633 West 5th Street #2890
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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