Often called four-wheelers, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are popular in Indiana as a way to cross open land, as transportation for teens who do not yet have a license, and just for fun and sport. Unfortunately, they are also often driven recklessly and cause serious and fatal accidents, often involving children. When you are injured in an ATV accident, there may be multiple parties liable for your injuries. Understanding the causes of ATV accidents and taking care to always be a safe rider can prevent a tragedy.
Common Causes of ATV Accidents
In general, ATV accidents are caused by the inexperience or carelessness of the driver. However, certain circumstances often lead to a greater risk of an accident, including the following:
- Riding on pavement. ATVs are designed to be ridden off road and therefore do not handle well on pavement. With their high center of gravity and low-pressure tires, they are more likely to tip over or go out of control on pavement. In addition, ATVs are not held to federal safety standards for cars and trucks, such as the requirement for seat belts, even though they can reach highway speeds. When an ATV is ridden on regular streets, the risk to the rider is much greater than when it is off-road.
- Carrying a passenger. Very few ATVs are designed to carry more than one person. When the driver carries a passenger, such as a young child, in front of him on the seat, he is less able to control the vehicle and may be unable to stop. Passengers in the rear can throw off the balance of the vehicle and cause it to tip or lose the passenger.
- Inexperience. Since there are no licensing or training requirements for ATVs in Indiana, riders may take an ATV out with little or no experience. These riders are more likely to lose control over uneven terrain or drive at speeds higher than what they can control.
- Riding without adult supervision. Unsupervised children are more likely to speed, dart out into roads, attempt tricks and maneuvers, and carry passengers. Even the smallest ATV engines can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour and young riders are unlikely to be able to handle the speed.
- Performing dangerous stunts. Both kids and adults attempt to jump obstacles, perform turning maneuvers, and race other ATVs, which can all lead to crashes and serious injuries. ATVs are not designed to make tight turns or take jumps at high speeds.
- Riding on unfamiliar terrain. Not knowing the terrain ahead of you can lead to crashing into trees, flipping in a hole or ditch, running on to a busy road, and many other hazards. Always approach new terrain with caution and do not allow children to explore new territory alone.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are nearly 100,000 ATV-related, emergency-department treated injuries and close to 700 ATV-related deaths in the U.S. every year. These vehicles pose a real risk to riders and those around them.
ATV Laws in Indiana
As ATVs are generally ridden off-road, they are not subject to the same traffic laws as other motor vehicles. In Indiana, riders aged 14 and older may ride without supervision, but must have a valid Indiana driver’s license to ride on a paved road. Many counties in Indiana do permit ATVs on paved roads, despite the danger. Children under 14 may only ride an ATV if supervised by someone over the age of 18 or while on property owned or controlled by their parent or guardian. There are no helmet laws for ATVs in Indiana.
Injuries Caused by ATV Crashes
ATV crash victims are more likely to be killed if they are not wearing a helmet and other protective gear. The CPSC reports that the following types of ATV-related injuries are most commonly treated in the ER:
- Contusions and abrasions
- Fractures of the arms or legs
- Head and neck injuries
- Injuries to the torso, such as broken ribs
Who Is Liable for Injury Crashes?
Determining liability for ATV-related injuries can be complicated. As ATVs are not permitted on most public property in Indiana without a permit, private property owners may be held liable for injuries and deaths that occur on their property. When a child under adult supervision is injured, that adult may be held partially liable. An adult carrying a child as a passenger may be held accountable for injuries sustained by that child in a crash. Also, an ATV manufacturer may be held liable if a malfunction or lack of safety labeling led to a crash. If you or your child is injured in an Indiana ATV crash, contact the injury attorneys at Keller & Keller to discuss your options for seeking compensation.