Should Roll Bars be Mandatory on ATVs?

All-terrain vehicle (ATV) accidents are a prevalent issue across Canada. Each year, dozens of riders die and thousands are hospitalized (more than 2,800 in 2017) in single- and multi-vehicle crashes. Despite how common these accidents have become, little is being done to improve safety on Canadian trails, much to the frustration of Ontario ATV accident lawyers.

One common sense move would be to mandate roll bars, sometimes known as crush-protection or operator-protection devices, in new vehicles. Australia is considering doing so, which has prompted manufacturers Honda and Yamaha to threaten withdrawal from the country. The effectiveness of roll bars has not been proven, the manufacturers say, and may even make accidents worse.

But other experts, including some ATV accident lawyers, disagree. ATVs’ high centre of gravity and narrow wheelbase make them inherently unstable, and their weight – between 200 and 400 kilograms – puts riders at risk of broken necks or being pinned beneath their vehicle.

“All of a sudden, you’re in a situation that you can’t correct,” said Don Voaklander, director of the University of Alberta’s Injury Prevention Centre, to CBC British Columbia. “That’s when you want a crush-protective structure to prevent that machine from rolling on you.”

David Sullivan, an Australian now living in British Columbia, manufactures roll bars for ATVs. He agrees that they save lives.

“This is absolutely a no-brainer,” he told the CBC. “It will prevent families from experiencing grief.”

However, many ATV riders and riders’ associations don’t want to be forced to drive ATVs with roll bars. They believe, correctly, that most ATV injuries and deaths are caused by human error.

“If a person rides within the limits of the machine, you shouldn’t have a problem,” said Quad Riders ATV Association of B.C. president Ralph Matthews. He believes roll bars should be “a personal choice.”

Dangerous behaviour like drinking and driving, speeding, and reckless driving cause the vast majority of serious ATV accidents. While roll bars won’t stop riders from engaging in these behaviours, they might protect them from death or serious injury when accidents occur. With riders unlikely to embrace roll bars willingly, it may be up to lawmakers and manufacturers to insist on them.

If you or a member of your family have been injured in an off-roading accident, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville office to arrange a free consultation. Our team of experienced ATV accident lawyers can assess the viability of your claim and help you understand your legal options.

American study links age restrictions to reduced ATV injuries among minors


Spring has finally arrived, which for many Canadians means a return to the ATV and off-road vehicle trails. ATVing is an exciting way to explore Ontario’s wilderness; reach camping, hunting, and fishing destinations; and spend time with friends. Unfortunately, as any Ontario ATV accident lawyer can attest, ATVs are also the cause of a significant number of injuries, particularly among young people.

In the state of Massachusetts, lawmakers sought to reduce childhood ATV injuries by introducing “Sean’s Law” in 2010. The legislation – named after 8-year-old Sean Kearney, who died in an ATV rollover – banned children under the age of 14 from riding off-road vehicles unless under the direct supervision of an adult, or while preparing for or participating in a race or rally approved by a municipal government.

In 2017, a group of doctors in the state published statistics illustrating the efficacy of the 2010 law. They found that between 2002 and 2013, MassGeneral Hospital for Children processed 3,638 emergency department discharges and 481 inpatient discharges. In the years following the law’s implementation, emergency department discharges fell 33 per cent among children nine and under; 50 per cent among children aged 10 to 13; and 39 per cent among teens aged 14 to 17. It found no similar decline among adults between 25- and 34-years-old.

In other words, Sean’s Law worked. Fewer children and teenagers were injured on ATVs after their use of the vehicles was restricted.

“Our results are the first to show substantial reductions in pediatric injuries after the passage of a state law with an age restriction that included all children up to age 14 on both public and private lands,” the authors wrote in the journal Pediatrics.

The authors of the report have recommended a minimum age requirement of 16 years to operate an ATV unsupervised. In an email to the CBC, co-author Dr. Michael R. Flaherty said that children under the age of 16 are 12 times more likely than adults to be injured in ATV accidents.

In Canada, the Canadian Pediatric Society has also endorsed an age limit of 16 years, a change that every Ontario ATV accident lawyer would happily endorse.

If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident involving an off-road vehicle, contact Will Davidson LLP’s Oakville office today to speak with an experienced Ontario ATV accident lawyer. Our team can help you understand your rights, assess the validity of your claim, and help you secure compensation to facilitate your recovery.

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