Using ATVs At Night Or On Paved Roads Is Particularly Dangerous, Study Finds

Serious injuries and accidents with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are more likely when used at night, or operated on paved roads, according to the findings of a new report.

In a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ annual meeting held virtually Oct 2-5, researchers from St. Louis University warn that not only was driving ATVs at night dangerous, but, in addition, using the off-road vehicles on paved roads reduces the vehicle’s ability to maneuver and turn, increasing the risk of serious injury.

Researchers analyzed the Iowa Department of Transportation’s off-road vehicle crash data for 2002 to 2017, focusing on use of off-road vehicles at nighttime compared to daytime in Iowa. More than 550 crashes were analyzed, and roughly one-third of crashes took place on roads with highway speeds.

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The findings indicate that, overall, about 25% of ATV crashes occurred at night. In more than half of those crashes the driver was physically or mentally impaired, often by alcohol or drugs.

Comparatively, only 11% of daytime crashes involved driver impairment.

ATVs and side-by-side (SxS) vehicles were included in the study. An ATV is an off-road motorized vehicle with low-pressure ties and a straddle seat. An SxS vehicle has bucket or bench side-by-side seats and a rollover structure.

The study also indicted when users drive off-road vehicles on paved roads in the dark,crashes and injuries also increase because of the lack of visibility.

The data also suggests fatal injuries happened more commonly in the dark. About 8% of serious or fatal injuries happened during the day, while 15% of fatal or serious injuries happened at night. Half of nighttime crashes resulted in major injuries while 39% of daytime crashes lead to serious injuries.

Most of the injuries during both day and night were due to rollover accidents. Riders in SxS vehicles often do not wear seatbelts and are ejected from the vehicle during crashes, which can lead to injured limbs.

Crashes involving a second vehicle were less common at night than during the day and children younger than 16 were more commonly injured in off-road vehicle crashes during the day compared to at night. That difference was drastic, with 89% of accidents involving kids during the day and 11% at night.

Off-road vehicles are not designed for roadways. The tires can be difficult to steer at high speeds on typical paved roads and the design makes them less steady during turns.

Manufactures of off-road vehicles warn they are designed only for off-road use and the use on regular roadways will increase the risk of injury.

Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.


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