Photograph of yellow ATV with person sitting astride ATV and researcher adding a CPD

ATV Safety Concerns Prompt UC Davis Study

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs)—off-road, motorized vehicles with three or four tires—are commonly used by farmers and ranchers to apply fertilizers, inspect livestock or crops, and carry or tow implements. There are approximately 11 million ATVs in the US, with 21% of those being used in agriculture.

The instability of ATVs can lead to rollover incidents, which are dangerous and often fatal. Deaths related to the use of ATVs on farms occur yearly in the US. ATV crashes are the second-leading cause of injuries and deaths in US agriculture, with about 190 injuries or deaths in a year.  

The ATV death rate is 100 times higher in the agricultural industry than in any other industry in the US.

Despite the known dangers of ATV use in agriculture, few studies have been conducted on agricultural ATV safety in the US. Dr. Farzaneh Khorsandi, Assistant Professor of Cooperative Extension at UC Davis and a Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (WCAHS) researcher, will lead a five-year study to evaluate the stability of agricultural ATVs and determine the operation and safety performance of engineering controls (i.e., crush protection devices) to prevent deadly outcomes in the case of rollover incidents (Figure 1).

Illustration explaining ways to eliminate safety hazards for agricultural ATVs
Figure 1. Hierarchy of controls to improve agricultural ATV safety. This active research project is investigating engineering controls to improve ATV safety.
What factors increase the risk of ATV incidents?

Specific situations in agriculture increase the risk of ATV incidents. For example, attachments on ATVs, such as sprayers, affect ATV safety. Sprayers were involved in over one-third of ATV-related fatalities on farms. Shifting fluid in the spray tank may cause changes in the center of gravity, possibly resulting in rollover. Despite the added risks of the use of attachments in agricultural ATVs, there is no scientific-based recommendation regarding the amount, type, and location of loads on agricultural ATVs. Dr. Khorsandi and her team will evaluate ATV stability considering the speed, added load, and type of towed attachments.

Another specific cause of incidents in agriculture is uneven ground. The most common causes of fatal ATV crashes in agriculture include riding on a slope or over bumps. Dr. Khorsandi and her team will be conducting bump obstacle tests to determine a vehicle’s ability to ride over bumps with minimal change in steering, vertical acceleration, or operator displacement. These findings will provide controls to improve operator safety on uneven agricultural grounds.

Next steps

In the next year, Dr. Khorsandi and her team will develop the terrain to be used for ATV stability tests. Then, they will conduct rollover tests with several commercially available ATVs. Following these tests, Dr. Khorsandi and her team will evaluate the performance of engineering controls (i.e., crush protection devices) to determine whether the safety of ATVs is increased with their use.

Additional reading

General Accounting Office. All-terrain vehicles: how they are used, crashes, and sales of adult-sized vehicles for children’s use. Report to Congressional Committees (GAO-10-418). 2010.

Helmkamp JC, Marsh S, Aitken ME. Occupational all-terrain vehicle deaths among workers 18 years and older in the United States, 1992-2007. Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 2011; 17(2): 147-155.

McIntosh AS, Patton DA, Rechnitzer G, Grzebieta R. Injury mechanisms in fatal Australian quad bike incidents. Traffic Injury Prevention. 2016; 17(4): 386-390.

Weichelt B, Gorucu S. Supplemental surveillance: a review of 2015 and 2016 agricultural injury data from news reports on Injury Prevention. 2018.

Media Resources

For more information, contact Farzaneh Khorsandi, Ph.D., at Download the ATV Safety one-pager to learn more about this active research project.