Why are ATV’s so dangerous?


Jeremy Clarkson once famously wrote that “if you want to kill your children, there’s no quicker way that I can see than buying them a quad bike.”

I don’t know about you, but I see Quad Bike / ATV accidents in the news all the time. There isn’t a week which goes by without a child being seriously injured after riding one at a friend’s house, or a farmer leaving the homestead on one, never to return. In fact, so dangerous are ATV’s here in Australia that they now hold the crown as the biggest killer on our farms, with 1 farmer dying each week on average. In 2015, a total of 24 farmers died in ATV accidents between January and the end of June, while another 50 suffered non-fatal injuries which were serious enough to be reported.

Just this week there was a story in the news about three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, who has now become the latest high profile victim of the ATV. Tony is currently in hospital with a serious back injury after crashing his ATV near San Diego on Sunday. ATV manufacturers are keen to point out that rider error is responsible for almost all ATV accidents, and given Stewart’s racing background one could assume he might not have been riding in a relaxed manner prior to the accident. But what about all the farmers who have died at the hands of an ATV while using them as a tool to get around their property? As human beings none of us will ever be perfect and rider error will always be a factor. Perhaps it is the machine which needs to be made less deadly?


One would imagine that a 4-wheeled ATV would be safer than a similarly sized 2-wheeled dirt bike. I mean why wouldn’t it be? The added stability of having four wheels on the ground means the rider doesn’t need to balance anywhere near as much. In theory, this is true, but in reality it couldn’t be further from the truth. A big part of what makes an ATV so dangerous is their inherent flaw in their design, resulting in a lack of lateral stability and crush protection for the rider. Put simply, ATV’s roll over all too easily, and often the consequences of that roll can be fatal.

Another issue with an ATV is the weight – up to twice the weight of a dirt bike. If you drop a dirt bike, the worst thing that might happen is you’ll break a leg. But if you roll an ATV you run the risk of breaking your neck, breaking your back or at least being on the receiving end of crush injuries to potentially any part of your body. By design, ATV’s are also great at tumbling down hills out of control, potentially hurting or injuring other bystanders.

So the next time you’re given the chance to ride an ATV in a seemingly harmless environment, make sure you treat it with the caution and respect it deserves.

Here are 10 quick safety tips before you set off:

  1. Always wear safety gear. Helmets, goggles, boots, gloves – the works.
  2. Do a pre-ride inspection every time. Also check the tires for wear and rims for damage.
  3. Never ride alone. Running out of fuel or crashing can be life threatening if you’re alone.
  4. Don’t ride drunk. ATV’s are dangerous enough as they are.
  5. If you’re tired, stop riding.
  6. One rider at a time. No piggy-backing or side riding.
  7. Ride on Designated Trails. Going off the beaten track increases your chances of rolling.
  8. Ride an ATV which suits your size. As a general rule, 90cc engines or larger for those 16 years and older.
  9. Know your surroundings. Look ahead just like driving a car so you can see what’s coming.
  10. Don’t mess around. Probably one of the top reason riders get hurt. Whether it’s showing off, trying to see what their quad can do or just plain stupidity, don’t ride beyond your ability.
Based in Brisbane, Australia, Sean has loved cars his entire life. At 21 he launched the popular 80’s Falcon forum xFalcon.com, then at 24 created TopGearbox.com, one of the most popular Top Gear fansites in the world.