The FCAI promotes the safe use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and encourages ATV users to undertake training and follow known safety practices when using their vehicles.
These practices include wearing a helmet and other appropriate safety gear, not carrying more than the manufacturer’s approved number of passengers, not overloading the ATV, not allowing children to ride adult-sized ATVs and not riding under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
We know that ATVs provide great benefits for farm owners/workers allowing them to stand up for better visibility and dismount easily when performing repetitive tasks. That is why many farm owners/workers use ATVs regularly. The FCAI stresses; however, that before using an ATV, farm owners/workers should consider if an ATV is the right vehicle for the task at hand and do not use the ATV for tasks or in environments which it is not suited.
Riders should undertake training, read the owner’s manual and watch the safety video provided with the ATV, before riding. In Australia, training is widely available and all ATV manufacturers selling vehicles in Australia can advise on ATV training available in local areas. Training is provided at a very reasonable price—around $100–$300. The FCAI is continuing to look for ways to increase awareness of training.
It is important that ATV users are conscious that many ATVs are single rider only vehicles (these vehicles are clearly labelled). Carrying passengers, particularly children, even for a short distance can be dangerous.
When buying an ATV, the FCAI recommends buyers check that their vehicle meets the strict American National Standards Institute (ANSI/SVIA) standards for ATVs, which have been adopted by FCAI members.
For more information on ATV safety, including the ‘nine steps to stay safe’, visit the ATV Safety website at www.atvsafety.com.au
The FCAI stresses that children under the age of 16 must only ride specifically designed and labelled age appropriate ATVs and never be allowed to ride adult sized ATVs. Parents should always supervise young riders and ensure they only ride in areas suitable to their vehicle and skills.
Users should also be conscious that many ATVs are single rider only vehicles. Carrying passengers, particularly children, even for a short distance can be dangerous.
The University of NSW (UNSW), Traffic and Road Safety (TARS) team has completed a number of tests intended to measure the stability, handling and crashworthiness characteristics of All Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Side by Side vehicles (SSV), with the aim of developing a safety star rating system.
In order to evaluate and inform these tests, the FCAI engaged the expertise of Dynamic Research Incorporated (DRI), who are leaders in road and off-road vehicle safety.
DRI director John Zellner was part of the reference group for the UNSW research project.
Having been involved in the project, DRI don’t believe the research undertaken provides an accurate indicator of comparative vehicle characteristics. Owing to this, the test results cannot accurately inform consumers of the comparative safety of the vehicles tested.
Vehicle Safety Star Rating Systems like NCAP inform consumers of the comparative safety related performance of one vehicle versus another within the same vehicle class. The NCAP five star rating system used today to measure passenger car safety can demonstrate (through real world data) that each increasing star level corresponds to a decreasing estimated probability of injury.
To develop a similar 5-star rating system for ATVs, each performance index being tested must correspond to the likelihood of injury or fatality for each model of ATV.
Unfortunately, the Star Rating system proposed by UNSW does not relate testing outcomes — and therefore vehicle characteristics — to real world data. This means it cannot inform ATV customers about the relative safety of one ATV versus another. To put it simply, it cannot be said that a 5-Star vehicle is five times as safe as a 1-Star vehicle in the proposed TARS rating system or even that it is any safer at all.
Any star rating system must be based on reliable data and information. For ATVs and SSVs, this means research that includes reliable crash/injury data. The FCAI encourages and would assist in the design and setup of such a data collection through hospital admission questionnaires and exposure data. Provided the data is collected in a thorough and systematic manner, the FCAI sees that it would be possible in a relatively short period of time to obtain the statistics required to design a star rating system which would give reliable and credible consumer information.
Any star rating system for ATVs and SSVs must accurately validate each particular vehicle’s safety benefits compared with others.
Unfortunately, there are some major flaws in the testing that was undertaken as part of the TARS program of research. This includes their repeatability and the misinformed assumptions that were made to advise the star ratings which TARS awarded to the vehicles. In particular, the FCAI notes there were specific issues with the static stability and dynamic handling tests.
As part of the TARS research, ATV and SSV static stability was measured by tilting the vehicles to the point of two-wheel lift on a tilt table. A Tilt Table Ratio (TTR) for each vehicle was recorded, and this informed the ATV Assessment Program (ATVAP) rating system, with higher TTR values (greater static stability) receiving a higher ATVAP score.
The FCAI does not agree with the way this test informs the proposed star rating.
Similar studies by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the United States were carried out between 1986 and 1991. At the time, the CPSC was unable to find any correlation between increased static lateral stability of ATVs and actual injury rates. In order for the UNSW research to be able to award vehicles star ratings based on TTR, there must be relevant measurable outcomes that can differentiate safety outcomes of one vehicle compared to another.
In addition to the lack of relationship between TTR and injury rates, the methodology of the TARS static stability tests is flawed. During the tests, the ATVs were measured using a very heavy dummy, which was positioned to lean downhill, rather than uphill. In a real-life situation, a rider would lean uphill. Leaning uphill is both instinctive and an instruction provided in ATV training courses. Owing to this, the test does not correlate with real-world use and as a result, the TARS report unfairly and inappropriately disadvantages ATVs compared to SSVs (in which the dummy was restrained in a fixed position, as a driver would be).
Three dynamic handling tests were carried out by TARS: a circle test, a J-turn test and a bump test. These tests were weighted by the authors and used to inform the proposed safety rating system.
Of particular note:
To be effective, vehicle tests are expected to be carried out on surfaces similar to those in which the vehicle is used. For the TARS research program, dynamic handling tests were carried out on asphalt, which is a very different to the surfaces in which off-road vehicles, such as ATVs and SSVs, are used.
As a result, the design changes which the TARS proposed star ratings would reward are not well suited to off-road vehicles and, if they were adopted, would potentially create other handling issues which the TARS authors have not considered.
Future and continued research
The FCAI continues to support vehicle studies that aim to improve safety and provide accurate information to consumers of off-road utility and recreation vehicles. Until a scientifically-based rating system which is relevant to off-road vehicles is available, the FCAI recommends that regulators refer to the ANSI-SVIA and ROHVA standards for ATV and SSVs.
Known safety practices
The FCAI continues to support and encourage known safety measures, such as wearing helmets, completing rider training, prohibiting children from adult-sized machines, and passengers from single seat ATVs.
These practices and the training currently promoted by the industry and user groups has been developed over decades of use by the engineers, trainers and other safety experts who design, manufacture and use the vehicles.
The FCAI looks forward to working with regulators and safety agencies to promote these known safety measures.