All-terrain vehicle history, safety tips

Dr. Jim Surrell

All-terrain vehicles were initially brought to the U.S. marketplace in 1967. The period of time from 1967 to 1987 is referred to as the “Three Wheeler ATV Era” because they were all 3 wheeler ATV’s at this time.

As the safety and stability of these vehicles was continually being evaluated, the ATV manufacturers changed their product lines to making four wheel ATVs. The current era of four wheel ATVs started in the mid-1980’s and still continues today.

In 1986, the first four wheel drive ATV was introduced by the Honda Company. Because of the popularity and improved performance of the four wheel drive ATVs, other manufacturers quickly followed suit. These four wheel drive ATVs, called 4×4’s, are by far the most popular type of ATV today. These 4×4 machines are used extensively by sportsmen, hunters, farmers, ranchers and construction workers.

ATVs are generally considered to be of two different models, known as sport models or utility models. Sport models are generally smaller, lighter in weight and are two wheel drive vehicles that accelerate quickly, have a manual transmission and run at speeds up to approximately 80 mph. The utility models are generally larger four wheel drive vehicles, are heavier in weight, and have a maximum speed of up to about 70 mph. The utility models are designed to have the ability to haul small loads on attached racks or small dump beds. They may also be used to tow small trailers.

Like any motorized vehicle, ATVs may be involved in minor or major accidents. A major study has shown that more than 1 in 3 on-road crashes involved a collision with another vehicle. The study reported that ATVs driving on our automobile roads had a significantly increased accident risk. It is also very important to note the markedly improved safety of wearing a helmet when on an ATV. This study showed that wearing a helmet was associated with reduced risk for the number and severity of brain injuries, providing further support for the importance of helmet use. Further, this study showed that on-road crash victims suffered more major trauma and severe brain injuries than the off-road crash victims. The authors strongly recommended that ATV drivers and passengers should always wear a helmet and primarily ride on the ATV off-road trails and minimize on-road riding.

There is a great organization that provides excellent information about ATV safe riding. It is the ATV Safety Institute. Their website is www.atvsafety.org and I highly recommend that all ATV riders and the parents of young ATV riders review their 8 great safety tips listed on their website. Of course, they recommend (1) Always wear a helmet, (2) Avoid riding on automobile roads, (3) Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs, along with five additional great safety tips. Their last tip is to take their brief on-line ATV safety course.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.