Ask the Editors: Is ATV Riding Safe?

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Dear ATVC:

I recently got my first ATV after taking a safety course and feel I’m a pretty good rider. Everyone I talk to seems to like to remind me of how dangerous ATVs are. Are there statistics to back up all of the hype that ATVs are as dangerous as people say?

Thanks to slanted media coverage, groundless lawsuits, political agendas and a whole lot of finger pointing to assign blame when accidents happen, ATVs are often easy targets for naysayers. However, and like most things in life, ATVs themselves are of course only a portion of the equation: The rider plays an undeniable role in the outcome of potentially dangerous situations. Safety courses like the one you took can be invaluable for providing a solid foundation in riding etiquette but ultimately it is the decisions the vehicle’s operator makes in the spur of the moment that determines the outcome of a risky situation.

Additionally there are user actions to consider- drinking and riding, wearing appropriate safety equipment, misusing a vehicle (by, for example, carrying a passenger on a single-occupant machine), performing stunts, so on and so forth that factor into many of the crashes that lead to personal injury or death.

Statistics you seek are indeed available but surprisingly; they do paint a hopeful picture. According to’s estimates of ATVs in use, the number is believed to have surpassed 11-million in 2010. The number of estimated emergency room treated injuries was 115,000 in 2010, down from 131,900 the prior year (when only 10.5 million ATVs were out there). In other words- more people on ATVs yet less reported injuries. This pattern can be witnessed many successive years.

Additionally ATV-related deaths dropped from 649 to 317 between 2009 and 2010. These and many other statistics can be viewed anytime at the’s site.

For comparison’s sake, more than 3.5 million children age 14 and under receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year. Once you factor in the incredible user base (again over 11-million in the US and counting), ATV riding is statistically safer than skiing, swimming, running, cycling, and a wide variety of other generally considered healthy activities. Remember it all comes down to the responsibility of each and every ATV operator, not the machines or the sport itself.

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