What is an ATV accident?

What is an ATV accident? (Checklist)

Written by Carolyn Jackson

ATV accidents have been on the rise for the last two decades. The increase in accidents is related to the popularity and accessibility of ATV-ing. As more people purchase and ride ATVs, it is everyone’s responsibility to promote ATV riding safety. Although some states have increased their legislation with ATV/off-roading safety in mind, most safety protocols are up to the individual riders. 


This article will discuss why ATV accidents happen, how to prevent them, and how to prepare for when they do happen.  


Key Takeaways:

  • ATVs are a safe recreational activity when you follow specific safety measures and protocols. 
  • ATV accidents are most common in riders under the age of 16 — so promoting safety in that age group is extremely important. 
  • Riders should always wear a good helmet and a pair of safety glasses while riding an ATV.


What is an ATV?

An ATV is a 3 or 4-wheeled vehicle with low-pressure tires and a seat that the operator straddles with one leg on each side. ATVs are controlled by two steering handlebars. The difference between a motorcycle and an ATV is that motorcycles have two wheels and ATVs have three or four. Otherwise, ATVs are very similar to motorcycles in how they ride and drive. If you compare an ATV and a UTV, they both have 3 or 4 wheels, but a UTV is driven more like a traditional car with a round steering wheel, foot pedals and the driver (and passenger) sat in a bench-like seat with a back. Therefore, an ATV is different from a UTV because of how the driver sits. Traditionally, ATVs are single-rider vehicles, and UTVs are designed for at least one passenger, if not more. 


ATV is an acronym that stands for All-Terrain Vehicle. The distinguishing factor of an ATV is the driver’s seating position, the handlebars, and the vehicle driving on 3-4 wheels. For a more in-depth look at what an ATV is and the history of ATVs, take a look at our article: All About ATVs. 


Are ATVs Safe?

This is a complicated question to answer. ATVs can be safe if they are used safely. Inherently, some dangers come with using an ATV. However, if you learn safety protocols, use the proper equipment, and operate an ATV with safety in mind — ATVs can be a safe and fun recreational activity. 


One of the major reasons ATV accidents occur is a lack of experience and knowledge about safety protocols for riding an ATV. Therefore, ATVs are recommended for those aged 16 and up with a valid driver’s license. Although laws differ by state, this is a common recommendation. Manufacturers make ATVs designed for kids, so if you are going to let someone under 16 operate an ATV, make sure the ATV is designed for youth. 


How Do I Operate an ATV Safely?

There are a few things to keep in mind to operate an ATV with safety in mind:

  1. Take an ATV Safety Course before operating an ATV
  2. Understand where you can and cannot operate an ATV — and abide by those regulations
  3. Wear the appropriate attire: Helmet and protective eyewear, long pants, long sleeves, and over the ankle boots
  4. Ride during daylight hours 
  5. Do not ride alone — or at least let a trusted friend know where you are and when you expect to return 
  6. Ride an ATV that is appropriate for your age, experience, and size
  7. Know first-aid and carry a kit 
  8. Understand safe speeds for turning and different terrains 
  9. Do not ride while under the influence of alcohol or drugs 
  10. Do not ride on public roads 
  11. Do not ride with more passengers than recommended by the manufacturer 
  12. Maintain your ATV to ensure it is in good, working condition 


How Often Do ATV Accidents Occur?

Every year, nationwide, approximately 135,000 individuals are injured in ATV-related accidents. Additionally, there are between 300-400 people killed annually in these accidents, with one-third of them being children under 16.


These numbers might intimidate you, but if you ride ATVs, you can do your part to help decrease the number of inquiries and deaths caused by ATVs. As noted above, the best defense against ATV accidents is following safety protocols and recommendations. 


Always use your best judgment and err on the side of caution when riding an ATV. ATVs are designed for adrenaline-seeking individuals, so the lines of safety and intended purpose can get blurry. But, we’re here to tell you they don’t need to be. You can operate an ATV and get those thrills you are looking for while still practicing safety methods. 


What to Do If You are in an ATV Accident

Accidents happen. It’s what you do after an accident occurs that can make a big difference. Even if you follow every safety protocol to a ‘T,’ you can still find yourself in an ATV accident. Your tires could spin out, and you might lose control, you might run into someone else or vice versa, or you might have a malfunction on your ATV. 


Being adequately prepared in the event of an ATV accident is paramount. If you are in an ATV accident, there are some basic steps you should always follow: 

What to do if you're in an ATV accident


ATV Insurance 

We’d be remiss, not to mention ATV insurance. Investing in ATV insurance is well worth the cost. You can expect to pay between $100-$200 per year for basic ATV insurance. ATV insurance is not legally required because ATVs are not street-legal vehicles. Sometimes, however, if you finance an ATV when you buy it, the financer might mandate it. 


When you purchase ATV insurance, it protects you in the case of injury or damage to property. For basic coverage, you will always have coverage for bodily injury and property damage. You can add on additional coverage, such as: 


  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Medical payments
  • Uninsured/underinsured people
  • Collisions (with a deductible)
  • Comprehensive coverage (with a deductible)
  • Theft


How to Prevent an ATV Accident

As the popularity of ATV riding increases, accidents, injuries, and related deaths increase as well. As a result, ATV riders need to be accountable for their safety and those around them while operating an ATV. Here are some jarring statistics that help explain why ATV safety is so important: 


  • Over 25% of ATV-related accidents and injuries happened to young individuals who were under 16 years old.
  • In the U.S., 19 states have no laws requiring the riders of ATVs to wear helmets.
  • In the U.S., 22 states still do not have the minimum age requirement for drivers. 
  • Most ATV injuries and accidents take place on public roads or highways.
  • Annual reports on the total number of ATV injuries and accidents have almost tripled since 1992.


A common theme in ATV accidents is the injury of younger drivers. The best way to decrease this statistic is to refrain from operating an ATV until you (or your children) reach the age of 16 or older. The experience, skills, and reflexes that are needed to drive a motor vehicle come with age. Additionally, younger drivers do not weigh as much, making them more susceptible to flipping. 


So, one great way to avoid ATV accidents is to refrain from driving one until you are over 16 years old. Additionally, if you are under 16 and still plan to drive an ATV, ensure the ATV is appropriately designed for your age, size, and experience. Take a safety course and practice with adult supervision in a safe area. Lastly, always wear protective gear. A good helmet and safety glasses can make all the difference if an accident does occur. Also, performing an inspection before every ride to make sure your ATV is in good condition mechanically is a good habit to make. 


What Accessories Can I Buy to Keep Me Safe If I am in an ATV Accident?

ATV riders know the importance of accessories. Not only are they a cool and fun way to upgrade your ATV, but they are also designed to promote the safety and comfort of riders. There are a few top accessories we recommend that are made particularly with safety in mind. 



A certified ATV helmet can mean the difference between a trip to the ER and another run on the trail. Riding with a helmet is like riding with gas — a must-have. Fortunately, modern ATV helmets are stylish and constructed with modern technology that pushes safety while maintaining comfort and freedom of movement. 


Here is a couple of ATV helmets to check out: 


Safety Glasses 

A good pair of safety glasses will not only protect you from dirt, debris, and other flying objects, it will also make it easier to see in the sun, wind, and rain. In addition, safety glasses are an affordable accessory that is easy to implement and well worth the investment. 


Here are a few safety goggles to check out: 



Wearing gloves when riding an ATV helps with your grip on the handlebars, which is extremely important for maintaining control and stability as the driver. Additionally, if you ever ride in cooler temperatures, a pair of gloves will help with comfort and protection. 


Here are some ATV gloves to check out: 


ATV riding boots protect your shins and ankles in case of a crash or falling off the machine. Riding boots also protect you in the case that your foot gets caught on the ground while riding. Additionally, they also protect your calves from burns and heat from the engine. Finally, make sure the boots you purchase are comfortable. If you do not like riding them, odds are you won’t — creating a safety hazard. 


Here are some ATV riding boots to check out: 



Pants designed for ATV riding are worth the investment because they protect you from impact if you fall or crash your ATV. Riding pants also add to your comfort while riding as far as temperature control and keeping your skin free from dirt, sweat, and mud. 


Here are some ATV pants to check out: 


First Aid Kit 

A first aid kit is an essential accessory for every ATV-er. No matter the cut, scrape, or wound size, having access to emergency first aid items will be beneficial. Look for a first aid kit that easily fits in your riding backpack or a storage compartment in your ATV. Keep the first aid kit on your person at all times while riding your ATV. 


A few first aid kits to check out: 


Check Out More Helpful ATV Guides and Articles

ATV safety is very important, but if there are more questions you have about ATVs, check out a few of our most popular articles on ATVs:


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