ATVs not designed for on-road use
The Superior City Council is considering a proposed ordinance to open up city roads and streets to off-road vehicle traffic and recreational use. As an emergency medicine physician and an all-terrain vehicle injury prevention researcher, I cannot...
The Superior City Council is considering a proposed ordinance to open up city roads and streets to off-road vehicle traffic and recreational use. As an emergency medicine physician and an all-terrain vehicle injury prevention researcher, I cannot stress enough how dangerous this decision would be.
Although only a small percentage of ATV riding presently occurs on the road, more than 60 percent of all ATV-related deaths have resulted from roadway riding.
Some argue that the ATV riders will be safe as long as they stick to lower-traffic roads, but this is incorrect. Two-thirds of ATV deaths and an even greater percent of roadway injuries do not involve another vehicle.
So why is riding ATVs on road or street so dangerous? ATV tires have deep treads, which are designed to grab surfaces, but not release. Cars and trucks, by contrast, have tires that are designed to continually grip and release the road. This makes ATVs unpredictable in their performance on all public roadway surfaces, but especially on paved streets and roads.
Most ATVs also have a locked rear differential or solid rear axle. This means that the wheels do not turn at a different rate when going around a curve as they do on vehicles designed for roadway travel. Thus, ATVs require a much wider turning radius.
In addition, ATVs have a relatively high center of gravity, lower pressure tires and a narrow wheelbase.
All of these factors make loss of ATV control and rollovers on roadways an ever-present danger, especially at speeds often traveled on public streets and roadways.
My first cousin, who lived on a farm near the one I grew up on in Minnesota, was killed when he turned his ATV onto a public road and was hit by a pickup truck. It was a terrible thing for the whole community.
However, another tragedy occurred that day. Even though the crash was not his fault, the man driving that pickup truck could never get over the fact that he had killed my cousin. He became an alcoholic and lost his family.
It makes no sense to put Superior's families, including all of its motor vehicle operators, at risk for such devastating emotional harm.
Over the past 15-20 years, roadway ATV deaths increased at a rate more than twice that of those off-road. Deaths from roadway crashes are not "accidents;" they are easily preventable.
Among those strongly warning against riding on roads and streets are the ATV manufacturers and their partners at the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America. These machines are designed for off-road surfaces.
In fact, ATV manufacturers warn riders in their owner's manuals that their product should not be used on public roads and streets, and have placed warning labels on the ATVs stating the same.
The ATV industry doesn't want the responsibility, and they certainly don't want the liability.
I'm puzzled why any city council or county board of supervisors would pass a resolution in violation of these manufacturers' warnings. Such an ordinance falsely implies that it is safe to go on the road. Any such governing body is misleading their citizens and taking on a liability they should not take.
In addition, opening up roads and streets to ATV transportation and recreational use often leads to uninvited access to the personal property of other landowners, not to mention the noise nuisance of these vehicles in town environments.
I hope that you carefully consider the consequences of opening public roads and streets to off-highway vehicle travel and recreational use. Opening roads to adults will inevitably increase ATV roadway use by children and teens as well.
Even one serious injury or death would nullify any possible benefit this ordinance would have for some area residents. Unfortunately, this consequence is essentially assured if such a policy is passed.
I encourage everyone concerned about ATV and roadway safety to speak up and inform the Superior City Council of their desire to keep their roads safe and local citizens healthy.
Charles Jennissen, M.D., works in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. The City Council is expected to take up the ATV route ordinance Aug. 7.