ATV Accident Reconstruction
ATV Accident Reconstruction and Failure Analysis by a Certified Forensic Engineer
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), also known as 4-wheelers or Quads, were introduced to the American marketplace in the mid-1980’s as an alternative to the highly unstable 3-wheeled vehicles (ATCs) which preceded them. Since their introduction, the popularity of ATVs has steadily increased, at least until the recent rise of the UTV / ROV market. One of the reasons for the popularity of ATVs is that they are relatively easy to ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of the population. The rapid increase in popularity has led to two distinctive issues worthy of consideration when conducting an ATV accident reconstruction:
The continued strong demand for ATV off-road vehicles has resulted in an ever increasing number of consumer choices from both reputable manufacturers in the US and Japan as well as the arrival of cheap Chinese knock-offs. With the rush to get their products to market, some manufacturers have taken shortcuts in the development process. Unfortunately, these shortcuts may manifest themselves as hidden safety traps for the average consumer. Whether it’s a defective design or improper manufacturing, it is often the consumer who ultimately discovers the defect, which can result in an injury during foreseeable use of the product.
The second issue arising out of the rapid increase in popularity of ATVs is that as more and more manufacturers introduce ATVs, more of the public gains exposure to these vehicles. Unlike an off-road motorcycle, ATVs offer the rider a sense that they can be ridden in relatively difficult terrain by most entry level operators. The ease of use, especially for inexperienced riders, can often lead to an individual taking the ATV on terrain which they do not know how to properly negotiate, leading to an accident such as tipping over.
When undertaking an ATV accident reconstruction it is important to understand the difference between the product failing to perform during anticipated use (or even foreseeable misuse) and incidents arising from improper actions by the operator. Veritech’s motorcycle and ATV expert has years of industry experience in the design, engineering, and testing of off-road products for consumer use. This experience affords him unique insight into the investigation of ATV accidents, product failures, and product liability claims, especially those related to ATVs and other power sport vehicles, such as motorcycles and UTVs.
In the mid-80’s, as manufacturers were changing their vehicle design from the 3-wheeled ATC to the 4-wheeled ATV, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) took notice of the rather large number of injuries that were associated with the use of ATCs and ATVs. In response to the number of injuries and CPSC’s inquiry, ATC manufacturers voluntarily ceased production of 3-wheeled vehicles and agreed to collectively financing a $100 Million ATV safety campaign. As part of the ATV Safety Campaign, the ATV Safety Institute was established to provide formalized training to ATV operators. The ATV Safety Institute continues to provide training at a minimal cost for anyone interested in attending, and at no cost when associated with the purchase of a new ATV.
One of the most important lessons taught during the ATV Safety training is how to properly handle the ATV while traversing rugged terrain. It is important that operators understand that ATVs are “rider active” vehicles. By design, a rider active vehicle depends on the rider to properly position their body in order to maintain stability. When turning or traversing a cross slope on an ATV, the rider must position their body to compensate for the vehicle’s natural tendency to tip over. Specifically, the rider must lean towards the inside of a turn or lean towards the uphill side of a cross slope in order to maintain stability. The rider’s actions as described counteract the natural forces exerted on the vehicle and rider during these maneuvers and therefore must be executed in a deliberate and planned manner.
The CPSC continues to monitor and report on the number of incidents and fatalities that are attributable to off-highway vehicles (OHVs), including ATVs, UTVs, and dirt-bikes. In the latest CPSC report, published in 2021 and covering accident reports from 2016 through 2018, the CPSC noted that there were 2,211 deaths associated with OHVs. Of those reported, over 70% involved ATVs while the remaining 30% involved UTVs or ROVs. Additionally, it was noted that the overturns and/or collision were the most common type of crash that resulted in death. In addition to the reported fatalities, the CPSC report estimates that there were in excess of 100,000 OHV related injuries each year during the same period.
Please contact our lead ATV vehicle expert, Mark Kittel, P.E., D.F.E. at 303-660-4395 to discuss your case and receive a free initial consultation with honest and candid comments.