ATV Injuries and Safety in the Tennessee Valley

June 18th, 2015 by Attorney John Colvin

ATV Accidents

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 2010 and 2013, preliminary data show that 104 people died in Tennessee ATV accidents. In that same time period, 135 people died in ATV accidents in Texas – a state with nearly four times the population of Tennessee.

So why is Tennessee’s ATV fatality rate so much higher, per capita, than that of Texas? Part of the reason may be that Tennessee has some of the weakest ATV laws in the United States. Riders are required to wear a helmet and eye protection, but there are no rules about safety education, adult supervision, minimum age, or passenger prohibitions.

ATVs and Children

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents forbid children under the age of 16 from driving or riding on an ATV, adding, “ … children are not developmentally capable of operating these heavy, complex machines.”

The Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital, in Nashville, has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the danger of ATVs, particularly for youth. The hospital partnered with the Tennessee 4-H Youth Development Program and other organizations to form the Tennessee Coalition for ATV Safety.

Coalition objectives include reducing ATV injuries among children and creating a database that captures juvenile ATV injuries in the state.

ATVs are not toys. They’re fast-moving vehicles that can be difficult to control. When adults drive an ATV on uneven terrain, they must sometimes dramatically shift their weight to keep the vehicle stable. Children don’t have the body mass to control an ATV and keep it from tipping over.

Rollover Risk

U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service employees use ATVs in their daily work. Concerns about ATV safety prompted the forest service’s National Technology & Development Program to conduct tilt-testing of four SUV models a few years ago. Researchers used a mechanical tilt table in two tests – raising the side of the ATV, and raising the front of the ATV – to determine the angle at which vehicles would begin to tip over, or slip, with a 175-pound dummy on board.

When raised laterally, the vehicles’ tires lost contact with the table at angles of 27 degrees up to 34 degrees. Longitudinally, positioned as if climbing a hill, the brakes began to slip on some models at around 13 degrees, up to about 34 degrees.

Reckless Operation

ATVs are not designed to be driven on public roads. People may wrongly assume it’s OK to drive an ATV on a rural road, but that’s where most fatal ATV roadway crashes occur.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, between 2007 and 2011, 1,701 died in ATV roadway crashes nationwide. Of the drivers who died, 90 percent were male, 87 percent weren’t wearing a helmet, and 43 percent had a blood alcohol level greater than .08 percent.

Staying Safe

The ATV Safety Institute, which is sponsored by ATV manufacturers that promote safe and responsible riding, offers safety education classes around the country, for a fee. However, they’re not necessarily convenient – a recent online search for a teens-and-adults class found the closest ones were found outside the Tennessee Valley and over 120 miles away in Alpharetta, GA., and Talladega, AL.

Someday, we may see stricter laws about ATVs. For now, the safety of ATV drivers is in their own hands.

John R. Colvin, Attorney at Law, has successfully represented injured clients throughout Tennessee and Alabama who have been seriously hurt in ATV accidents. He has also assisted families who have lost loved ones to ATV crashes. For 20 years, he has been helping victims put their lives back on track, and he is ready to help you. For advice on how to proceed, or if you have any questions about this topic, call 1-844-683-6229, or submit this online form. Put his bold approach and client focus to work for you.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama