ATV Riders: Without Laws, Injuries Will Increase

All terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a very popular mode of transport for entertainment purposes in Oregon, but personal injury attorneys are warning that if new safety measures aren’t introduced and enforced, the number of serious injuries caused in ATV accidents is almost certain to continue rising. Like motorcycles, ATVs provide very little protection to drivers and passengers when things go wrong.

Now, a new study just released by the University of Calgary concludes that more needs to be done to prevent serious injuries and deaths from escalating in ATV accidents. The main findings indicate that while drunk driving legislation and seat belt laws have played their parts in cutting back on road deaths, not enough has been done regarding ATV use.

Lack of legislation means more injuries

Dr. Richard Buckley of the University of Calgary says that while ATVs are popular, they undoubtedly present hazards to the people who use them. As one of the authors of the new study, Dr. Buckley says “we have not got enough legislation to help people use these very dangerous vehicles safely.”

Portland personal injury attorneys tend to agree. They point to the fact that Oregon has already seen a number of ATV accident-related deaths this year, and dozens more people have been injured.  Yet in some places, there are no laws regulating helmet use on ATVs or even a mandate regarding the minimum age of the people who drive them.

Serious injuries are commonplace

Because ATVs are commonly ridden off-road, the danger of being thrown from the vehicle, or having it roll over on top of you in an accident are much greater than when used on standard roads. Being ejected from any vehicle increases the risk of serious injury and death, and the UC study said the types of injuries commonly seen in ATV crashes include:

  • Broken spines
  • Broken necks
  • Serious head injuries and brain damage
  • Smashed faces (according to the study, a very common injury in ATV crashes)
  • Broken arms, legs and ankles
  • Deep cuts and gashes
  • Less serious scrapes and contusions

ATV safety instructor Laura Munroe says accidents on this type of vehicle are far more common than people might realize. She admitted that recreational use of ATVs in off-road situations is a recipe for disaster and concedes she’s often been a victim herself. “Every time we used to go out recreationally riding, one of us would always get an injury,” Munroe said. She recounted just some of the injuries she’d personally witnessed. “One of my friends had two broken wrists from (just) one injury. Another one had a laceration in the hand and needed stitches. My husband had an accident where he actually broke his helmet,” Munroe admitted.

Youth, gender, and alcohol are all factors in increased injuries

As could be expected given the profile of most ATV users, the majority of the people killed or seriously injured in ATV accidents are male. Other factors most frequently observed in the study included:

  • The most common age group of those killed or injured was the 18 to 20 bracket.
  • The majority of those seriously injured or killed, whether drivers or passengers, were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash.
  • Almost half of the injury victims (45%) had been drinking when the crash occurred.

Another factor which frequently contributes to serious ATV accidents is the riders’ unfamiliarity with the terrain or trails they’re riding on. Fallen logs, hidden trenches, or unseen obstacles that suddenly appear when a rider crests a hill can all lead to traumatic, life-changing injuries.

What kind of legislation would help prevent ATV injuries?

The UC study recognizes the fact that you can’t “legislate for everything,” but the conclusions reached were that certain guidelines could be established that would ultimately prevent a number of serious injuries and save lives.

Certainly, something needs to be done. ATV sales have increased dramatically over the past 10 years, and the number of traumatic injuries in ATV accidents has also risen at a frightening rate. Hospitals and emergency rooms have witnessed a stunning three-fold increase in ATV injuries since 2001.

Safety advocates are calling for relatively simple rules, at least to begin with.  They want to see:

  • Mandatory helmet laws for ATV riders and passengers  in every state
  • A minimum age of 16 established for drivers of ATVs
  • A requirement that under-age users of ATVs be accompanied and supervised by an adult

In Oregon, ATV accident victims frequently end up with horribly painful and life-changing injuries that leave some victims paralyzed, others disfigured for life, and some with constant and long-term pain, while others pay the ultimate price—their lives.

Some accidents may be caused by defects in the ATVs themselves, or through the negligence of others. If you’ve been injured in an ATV accident that wasn’t your fault, you’re very likely to have very large medical bills, and you may have to deal with a loss of wages, ongoing treatment, and long term pain and suffering.

In such cases, you would do well to contact a Portland personal injury attorney with experience in traumatic injury cases. They can give you free and reliable advice on how best to proceed with your accident claim, and they can give you a good idea of the kind of compensation you can expect to receive.