Todd P Krell, MD
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthodoc.aaos.org/ToddKrellMD
Westfield Orthopedic Group
541 East Broad Street
Westfield, NJ 07090
Phone: (908)232-3879  | Fax: (908)232-5789
Copyright 2013 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
All-Terrain Vehicle Safety

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are often perceived as recreational toys, but they can be extremely dangerous. More than 368,000 ATV-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments and doctors' offices in 2009, according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Of those injuries, over 117,000 were to riders under the age of 18.

Few states require a license to operate an ATV and there are no nationally mandated safety standards. The basic design of both the three- and four-wheeled models -- large, soft tires and high center of gravity – makes them hazardous to anyone who rides them. A large percentage of accidents involving ATVs result from tipping and overturning. In addition, ATVs can reach speeds of up to 50 mph or more.

ATVs are especially dangerous for children. Children under 14 years of age accounted for approximately 23% of the total ATV-related injuries and deaths in 2009.

A Public Health Risk

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) considers ATVs to be a significant public health risk.

To help reduce the numbers of injuries and deaths, particularly among young people, the AAOS along with the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, and the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America recommends that:

  • All ATV operators should be licensed and undergo a hands-on training course.
  • ATVs should never be driven by a child younger than age of 12. Younger children do not have adequate physical size and strength to control these vehicles. Nor do they have the motor skills and coordination to operate a vehicle safely.
  • Children between the age of 12 and 16 should have limitations on their use of ATVs. They should be supervised by a responsible adult. Children under 16 years of age should not operate ATVs that have an engine size of 90 cc or greater.
  • Always wear protective gear. Helmets are especially important in reducing the risk of head injury. Protective gloves and heavy boots can also help reduce injuries.
  • ATVs should be used during daylight hours only.
  • Only one person should ride vehicles intended for single person use.
  • Do not operate an ATV if you have taken drugs or alcohol.
Safety Tips

Here are some additional safety tips for ATV use. Following these guidelines could help reduce your risk of injury.

  • Read all instruction manuals and follow the manufacturers' recommendations for use, maintenance, and pre-use checks.
  • Never operate an ATV on pavement or on a public road.
  • Always wear protective gear. Helmets are especially important in reducing the risk of head injury. Protective gloves and heavy boots can also help reduce injuries.
  • Do not operate at excessive speeds or after dark. ATVs are difficult to control and collisions with other vehicles can result in severe injuries or death.

Source: US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 2009

Last reviewed: April 2013
AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS "Find an Orthopaedist" program on this website.
Copyright 2013 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Related Links
Driving Safety (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00104)
Helmet Safety (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00425)
Patient Story: Severe Fractures in the Leg (http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00690)
OrthoInfo
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 N. River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018
Phone: 847.823.7186
Email: orthoinfo@aaos.org