The Reality of Off-Roading: Preventing and Responding to Four-Wheeler Accidents

Four-wheelers are a source of adventure for many people in the South. However, the thrill does come with significant risks.

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have been linked to a concerning number of accidents across the United States. These accidents range from collisions with trees, people, other vehicles, or stationary objects to implements and ejections.

Read on to learn just how common these accidents are, the typical causes and accidents, how to avoid accidents, and what to do when you’re in one.

Statistics on Four-Wheeler Accidents

From 2017 through 2021, emergency departments across the U.S. treated approximately 517,700 injuries linked to ATVs, as reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

During this time period, Alabama ranked #9 nationally with 69 ATV accidents that resulted in 72 deaths. 

The CPSC recorded 2,207 ATV deaths from 2016-2018. During that time, the highest percentage of those deaths was observed in adults aged 55 or older. They accounted for 30% of the ATV deaths. People aged 16-34 were close behind at 29%.

However, drivers younger than 16 account for a surprising number of ATV-related injuries or deaths. In 2021, operators or passengers aged 15 and under accounted for 30,500 injuries, and children under 12 years of age accounted for 6% of deaths from 2017-2019 in the U.S.

Common Causes of Four-Wheeler Accidents

The causes of ATV accidents can vary widely based on the rider’s actions and the type of vehicle being used. Some of the most common causes include:

  1. Reckless Driving: Sharp turns, speeding, quick changes in terrain, and going up and down steep inclines can lead to accidents.
  2. Driving Under the Influence: Operating four-wheelers or other ATVs while impaired by drugs, alcohol, or other substances is high on the list of common causes.
  3. Vehicle Malfunctions: Technical issues such as loss of power, smoking engines, clogged air filters, and batteries that won’t charge can all lead to unexpected incidents.
  4. Terrain Challenges: Driving on challenging terrain without the appropriate skills or vehicle type can cause accidents.
  5. Age-Related Risks: Young riders, in particular, face weighted risks and are frequently the victims of ATV accidents.

Types of Four-Wheeler Vehicles and Associated Risks

side-by-side in alabama

Four-wheelers come in various designs, each suited to different uses and terrains and carrying its own unique set of risks.

  • Sport ATVs: These are made for rough terrain and high-speed adventures, where the risk of accidents due to reckless driving and collisions is higher.
  • Utility ATVs: Utility ATVs are designed for hauling and light travel. While they are typically involved in fewer accidents than other types of ATVs, they are most likely to run into trouble if they are overburdened or used improperly.
  • Side-by-Side: These vehicles are designed like small cars with two front seats. Side-by-sides require a clear understanding of their size and handling, especially on narrow or winding trails.
  • Youth ATVs: Although designed with safety in mind, including features like electric starts and automatic clutches, age-appropriate guidance and supervision are critical.

Types of Injuries Resulting from Four-Wheeler Accidents

The 2021 CPSC report shows the most common injuries were:

  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Contusions/abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Fractures
  • Internal organ damage

Four-wheeler accidents can have long-term effects like months or years of rehabilitation. Some injuries, such as brain injuries, may never fully heal and end in permanent disability.

The risk of serious or permanent injury is why preventative measures and safety tips are so important when handling ATVs.

Preventive Measures and Safety Tips

  • Wear proper helmets and safety gear.
  • Take a safety course.
  • Always perform a mechanical check and resolve any mechanical issues before riding.
  • Follow age-appropriate riding guidelines.
  • Avoid paved roads and highways.
  • Don’t speed and ride sober.
  • Follow designated trail guidelines and respect local wildlife habitats.

Legal and Insurance Considerations for Accident Victims

In Alabama, ATVs are not required to be registered with the state. However, you may voluntarily register them with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s ATV/UTV Registration.

ATV injury victims can possibly receive compensation for injuries, lost wages, medical expenses, and property repairs, but not without the help of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney.

However, if you are a victim of an ATV accident and you are even 1% responsible for your injuries, you cannot receive damages.

Steps to Take After a Four-Wheeler Accident

Your first moves after a four-wheeler accident are key to protecting your legal rights. You should seek immediate medical attention, even for seemingly minor injuries. Next, collect evidence including video, pictures, physical evidence, and witness statements. Most importantly, contact an experienced lawyer.

Preventative steps can make a difference. Still, accidents happen. If you or someone you know has been injured in a four-wheeler accident, contact the attorneys at Timberlake, League & Brooks. We can help.

Share this post: