How Dangerous Is Riding an ATV? With Safety Statistics

When riding your ATV, you’re aware that it’s dangerous, but it’s not a thought you linger on for very long. How many ATV accidents happen per year? How many deaths?

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2021 report, between 2016 and 2020, over 101,000 ATV and other OHV injuries occurred that required emergency department treatment. Between 2016 and 2018, 1,566 ATV-related deaths took place.

In this article, we’ll break down all the data on ATV accidents, injuries, and deaths. We’ll also compare riding an ATV to doing other activities to determine what’s more dangerous, so make sure you keep reading! 

ATV Injury and Death Statistics

As we touched on in the intro, the following stats are provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC in their 2021 Report of Deaths and Injuries Involving Off-Highway Vehicles with More Than Two Wheels. The report was published in November 2021.

Let’s take a closer look at the contents of the report now. 

Injury Statistics of ATVs

Between 2016 and 2020, which is five years, the CPSC notes that off-highway vehicles or OHVs led to 526,900 injuries that required treatment in an emergency department. 

OHVs, by the CPSC’s definition, include UTVs, remotely operated underwater vehicles or ROVs, and ATVs.

The CPSC says that every year, 105,400 such injuries occur that are attributed to OHVs. If you take the 526,900 injuries and divide them by five, then that trend would continue mostly uninterrupted.

For several years, the number of annual emergency department injuries was trending downward. In 2016, 115,500 of these injuries occurred, but in 2018, it was only 95,000.

Then, by 2020, the number bounced back up to 112,300 injuries. 

What kinds of injuries occurred? Per its 2020 data, the CPSC says that the neck and head, as well as the arm, were the most frequently injured areas, with a 30-percent injury rate for both. 

That’s followed by leg and torso injuries each at 20 percent.

Most injuries were fractures (30 percent), but some were abrasions or contusions (18 percent). 

Most of the people who were injured were males, 68 percent versus 32 percent of females. They also skewed younger. 

The most injury-prone group of OHV riders were between 16 and 24 years old, which made up 23 percent of those injured. 

That was followed by 25-to-34-year-olds (20 percent), 35-to-44-year-olds (13 percent), 12-to-15-year-olds (13 percent), riders 12 and younger (13 percent), 45-to-54-year-olds (nine percent), and riders 55 and up (eight percent).

Death Statistics of ATVs

The CPSC notes that despite the recency of its data that the most current OHV fatality data the organization has is from 2018. 

Between 2016 and 2018, 2,211 deaths occurred that were related to OHVs. These deaths were the result of 2,156 accidents or incidents.

How many of those deaths were from ATVs? In 2016, 565 deaths were caused by ATV accidents. In 2017, it was 520 deaths, and in 2018, 481 deaths.

That’s 1,566 fatal ATV incidents in three years. By comparison, ROVs caused 478 fatal incidents and UTVs 46 in that same timeframe. 

By far then, the most fatal accidents occurred due to driving an ATV, not another type of vehicle. 

The CPSC goes further and compiled a chart on the number of fatalities in one accident. According to this data, 25 double ATV fatalities occurred between 2016 and 2018. 

ROVs caused 21 double fatalities, two triple fatalities, and one quadruple fatality in that same timeframe for a total of 24 deaths. 

UTVs caused only one double fatality in those three years. 

The CPSC also included a state-by-state breakdown of fatalities caused by OHVs from January 1st, 2016 through December 31st, 2018. These fatalities include not solely ATV deaths, but deaths from ROVs and UTVs as well. 

Here’s the list for your perusal:

  • Hawaii – 0
  • Delaware – 1
  • Rhode Island – 3
  • Connecticut – 6
  • New Jersey – 9 
  • Massachusetts – 11
  • Vermont – 12 
  • Wyoming – 18
  • Utah – 18
  • Maryland – 18
  • North Dakota – 18
  • Maine – 18
  • Kansas – 23
  • South Dakota – 24
  • Arkansas – 24
  • Nebraska – 25
  • Washington – 26
  • New Mexico – 26
  • Alaska – 29
  • Nevada – 33
  • Iowa – 33
  • Montana – 35
  • South Carolina – 36
  • Oregon – 36
  • Tennessee – 42
  • Colorado – 44
  • Georgia – 45
  • Idaho – 46
  • Virginia – 48
  • Illinois – 51
  • Louisiana – 53
  • Indiana – 55
  • Mississippi – 55
  • Ohio – 56
  • Oklahoma – 58
  • Arizona – 59
  • Wisconsin – 59
  • Minnesota – 61
  • Missouri – 62
  • Michigan – 63
  • Alabama – 68
  • New York – 73
  • North Carolina – 78
  • Florida – 79
  • California – 101
  • Kentucky – 104
  • Pennsylvania – 112
  • West Virginia – 114
  • Texas – 139

Check out our ATV Page to Learn More!

Is Riding an ATV Dangerous? Comparisons to Other High-Risk Activities

We can’t deny the statistics. Compared to the OHVs that the CPSC evaluated, ATVs are indeed the most dangerous and will lead to the most fatalities.

Does that mean you shouldn’t ever touch your ATV again? We wouldn’t say that. To put it into perspective, we’ll look at ATV injuries and deaths and see how they stack up to the respective injury and fatality levels of other activities.

Riding a Motorcycle

If we strictly compared the rate of motorcycle-riding injuries to those caused by OHVs (and thus ATVs), the OHVs would win. The average amount of injuries is 105,380 per year for OHVs and 84,000 for motorcycles as of 2019.

However, the Insurance Information Institute or III shows that motorcycle fatalities are higher than those caused by ATVs.

You’ll recall in the last section that between 2016 and 2018, up to 1,556 fatal ATV accidents occurred. We want to make the distinction that these deaths were not attributed to random OHVs, but ATVs specifically.

In 2016, 5,337 motorcycle deaths were logged. In 2017, it was 5,226, and in 2018, the number of fatal motorcycle accidents was 5,038.

That’s 15,601 total motorcycle fatalities in that three-year span versus 1,556 deadly ATV accidents.


You have to drive a car, truck, van, or SUV to get to and fro, but it’s an incredibly dangerous activity. 

According to an article from the U.S. Department of Transportation with stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA, 31,720 people were in fatal car accidents between January and September 2021.

In just those eight months, that’s about 30 times more deadly than driving an ATV over three years.

ATV Safety Tips 

We must stress again that although riding an ATV (or any type of OHV for that matter) does carry with it inherent risks, that doesn’t mean you have to stop using yours. 

Instead, whenever you can, you should prioritize safe, smart decision-making. If your children are also interested in ATVs and wish to ride like mom and dad, you’re modeling good behavior for them.

Here are our top safety tips for whenever you use your ATV.

No Child Riders Without Adult Supervision

A heartbreaking number of ATV deaths are attributed to children under 12 years old and under 16 years old. 

The CPSC, in its report, notes that 142 children under the age of 12 died in an OHV accident between January 1st, 2016, and December 31st, 2018.

As for kids under the age of 16, the number of deaths was 2,211, which is far too many!

Kids should never ride an ATV unless their parents are there to supervise them. Even if your state doesn’t have any rules in place about child riders on ATVs, as their parent, you should be the one to make the rule.

It could just save your child’s life! 

Always Wear a Helmet

The average speed of an ATV is 50 miles per hour. 

According to law firm Willens Injury Law Offices, when traveling at that speed, the risk of serious injury is 52 percent and the risk of injury is 69 percent in a car.

When riding an ATV, you have far less protection than driving a car. Thus, your risk of serious injury or death must go up.

A report in U.S. News from 2021 cites a HealthDay News study on the usage of helmets and the reduced risk of ATV injury and death. 

The study had 680 participants who were ATV or dirt bike users. They were between the ages of one and 17 years old. 

All participants had had an accident on their bike or ATV and were medically treated sometime from 2010 to 2019.

Of the 680 participants, 34 percent wore helmets when they crashed, and ATV riders were less likely than dirt bikers to use a helmet. 

Between the two groups, 70 percent of dirt bikers had their helmets on, and only 22 percent of ATV riders.

The helmetless injured had a higher rate of going to the intensive care unit and they often needed intubation as well. 

Their rate of moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries was high, eight percent for non-helmeted riders versus two percent for helmeted riders.

They were also likelier to have an intracranial hemorrhage (16 percent of non-helmeted riders versus four percent for helmeted riders) and skull fractures (18 percent for non-helmeted riders versus four percent for helmeted riders).

Of the non-helmeted riders who were treated, three died, with neurotrauma or spinal trauma a leading cause of death for two out of the three.

We hope this proves to you the value of wearing a helmet whenever you ride your ATV! Don’t forget to replace your helmet to avoid injury. Not sure when it’s necessary to buy a new helmet? Check out our other article When Should I Replace My ATV Helmet.

Don’t Ride Between Sunrise and Sunset Without Working Headlights and Taillights

When on your ATV, you must always stay alert and aware of your surroundings. That becomes a lot harder to do when you can’t see your surroundings due to lack of daylight.

You must have working ATV headlights and taillights if you plan on riding very early in the morning or later after dusk. 

Not only is this for your safety, but in many parts of the United States, it’s the law.

It’s fine if you want to get a leg up and ride during times when fewer people are around but do so safely. You won’t risk crashing into a tree, an animal, another ATV rider, or anything else in your immediate vicinity.  

Avoid Riding in Inclement Weather

For the same reason as above, taking your ATV out for a spin in inclement weather is ill-advised. Yes, it becomes ultra-muddy when it’s raining, but it’s not like all the water in the soil instantly evaporates the moment the downpour stops. The mud will still be there.

You can either wait for the inclement weather to pass and go riding later or reschedule your trip for another day. 

It’s not just a lack of visibility you have to worry about when riding your ATV in inclement weather. You could be struck by lightning!

Lightning doesn’t always hit metallic objects, despite what you might have heard. Lightning will strike whatever the most isolated object is, which could very well be you on your ATV.

Take an ATV Safety Course

Although you’re not required to enroll in an ATV safety course, it’s still a good idea to sit in on a class once every year or every couple of years. A refresher will give you a chance to brush up on your knowledge and maybe even learn a new thing or two so you’re an even safer ATV driver! 

Keep the ATV on a Known Path

When riding in a group, you might have a few ATV buddies who will egg you on to try out that new trail they found. They don’t know where it goes, but isn’t discovery half the fun of riding an ATV?

No, not really. If no one in your group knows where the trail leads, you shouldn’t ride there. You have no idea what kind of hazards could await you.

Instead, even though it’s not as fun, you should stay on known ATV paths. It’s a lot safer that way. 

Avoid Public Roads with an ATV

An ATV is an OHV, which is short for off-highway vehicle. In other words, you shouldn’t ever be on a public road. 

Even if that’s a quaint residential street without a lot of activity, we’d still tell you not to ride your ATV there. It simply isn’t designed for public roads, and you’re in a more hazardous riding situation. 

Never Consume Alcohol and/or Substances and Ride Your ATV

Our last tip is this. If you know you’re going to ride your ATV today, or if you’re even thinking about riding, don’t consume any substances that can affect your judgment.

That includes alcohol and illegal substances, obviously, but even prescribed substances can mess with your ability to focus or drive clearly. 

Final Thoughts 

Riding an ATV can be dangerous, and we won’t sugarcoat that. That’s why being a safe driver is paramount, both for yourself and every other ATV driver you come across.

Whether you take a safety course, upgrade your helmet, or supervise your child when they ride an ATV, you’re making a smart, safe choice! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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