A study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that if you only drive ATVs on off-road trails, always wear a helmet and don’t ride after drinking, you are highly unlikely to die in a crash. Ignore those simple rules and all bets are off.

The statistics gathered by the IIHS are staggering. About two thirds of fatal ATV crashes occur on public or private roads – 1,701 between 2007-2011. As well, only 13 percent of drivers and six percent of passengers killed wore helmets, while 43 percent had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater.

“These vehicles are designed for off-road use, yet most of the fatal crashes are occurring on roads,” says Anne McCartt, IIHS senior vice president for research and a co-author of the study.

The crashes occurred primarily in rural areas and in 49 states. No crashes occurred in New Hampshire or the District of Columbia. The highest numbers of deaths occurred in Kentucky (122), Pennsylvania (97), West Virginia (96) and Texas (95). West Virginia had by far the highest rate of ATV rider deaths (105 per 10 million people), and Wyoming was a distant second with 70.

Three-quarters of the fatal crashes in the study involved just one ATV. Of the single-vehicle fatal ATV crashes, 56 percent involved a rollover.

While much attention has been paid to ATV fatalities among children, in recent years most fatally injured ATV riders have been men. Ninety percent of the ATV driver deaths in the federal government’s database of fatal crashes were 16 and older, and 90 percent were males.

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