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The Often Overlooked Dangers of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC comment on the dangers of all-terrain vehicles, in light of the alarming number of ATV accidents that occur each year throughout the state. According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission’s annual report, which compiled data over a 30-year period, Florida has consistently ranked amongst the top ten states having the highest rate of ATV-related fatalities in the nation, when considering incidents occurring on all roadway types. While Florida does rank lower in ATV rider deaths on public roads, this is largely due to the fact that ATV use in our state is much more common in rural areas.

Below is a map of all ATV crashes in North central Florida from January 2012 through September 2013:

Unlike other types of fatal crashes, which are more likely to involve multiple-vehicle collisions, the majority of fatal all-terrain vehicle accidents involve a single vehicle—the ATV. According to a 2013 status report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, three-quarters of fatal ATV crashes between 2007 and 2011 reported a single-vehicle incident, while less than half of fatal motorcycle accidents were single-vehicle crashes.

Another distinguishing aspect of ATV accidents, in comparison to other crashes, is the tendency of all-terrain vehicles to roll. As provided in the IIHS report referenced above, close to three-fifths of single-vehicle fatal ATV crashes involved the ATV rolling over. Further, when considering all types of ATV crashes, whether single or multiple vehicle, fatal and non-fatal accidents, as well as reported and unreported, studies have shown that as many as three-quarters of all ATV accidents occur as a result of the vehicle either tipping or overturning.

ATV rollovers are particularly dangerous due to their propensity to cause catastrophic injury. One of the most common causes of death in ATV-overturn accidents is due the vehicle landing on top of the victim. In some accidents, a driver or passenger may be ejected from the ATV as it is overturning, and the vehicle subsequently lands on a victim. In other crashes, one or more of the occupants may roll with the ATV, thereby crushing and/or pinning the victim.

It is important for drivers to understand just how easy it can be for an ATV to overturn. Unfortunately, many drivers operate ATVs under the misconception that ATV rollovers can be avoided by refraining from high-speed driving and/or reckless behavior. However, in actuality, even a small incline can cause an ATV to roll, regardless of the driver’s rate of speed.

For example, earlier this month, a 71-year-old man was killed in an Alachua County ATV accident as he was performing volunteer duties in San Felasco Preserve. As reported by the Gainesville Sun, “[…] it appears that Rossley allowed the ATV to veer off the normal travel path onto the slightly raised right edge of “Main Road,” causing the ATV to overturn to the left 1 1/4 times, where the ATV came to rest atop Rossley, pinning him underneath.” This tragic scenario demonstrates just how easy it is for an ATV to overturn, and cause death, even in cases, as it appears here, where the victim was neither speeding nor engaging in reckless activity.

At a very minimum, drivers should be aware of six key safety tips, as provided by

    • Get Trained
    • Wear a Helmet
    • No children on adult ATVs
    • Don’t ride tandem
    • Don’t’ ride on pavement
    • Don’t ride under the influence

Knowing the features as well as deficiencies in safety of the ATV being used can also aide in the prevention of accident, injury, or death. Riders should be aware of the risk factors associated with their specific type of ATV, as well as monitor safety recalls, and when feasible, register the product with the manufacturer and/or distributor.

The Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Straile, PLLC urge the operators of ATVs, four-wheelers, and other recreational vehicles, to practice safe and responsible riding. If you were injured, or a loved one was killed as a result of an ATV accident, our experienced personal injury attorney team can evaluate you matter and explain your legal rights, as well as any entitlement to financial compensation.

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