- ORVs (including ATVs) continue to grow in popularity for both recreational and professional use in Michigan.
- An estimated 27 percent of ORV accidents reported to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in 2017 were caused by speed.
- Michigan saw only two fatal ORV crashes in 2018. Pennsylvania reported the highest at 27 deaths.
- It is the responsibility of all ORV operators to know the rules and regulations before they ride including that they must wear a helmet, stick to authorized areas, and travel sober and at the appropriate speed.
Understanding ORV (and ATV) Use in Michigan
Off-Road Vehicles (ORV) and All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) continue to grow in popularity for both recreational use and with outdoor professionals in Michigan. Both ORVs and ATVs are motor driven off-road recreational vehicles capable of cross-country travel without the benefit of a road or designated trail. These small but fast vehicles have capabilities to travel across all types of natural terrain supported by multi-track or multi-wheel drives.
ATV: A3- or 4-wheeled vehicle designed for off-road use that has low-pressure tires, has a seat designed to be straddled by the rider and is powered by a 50cc to 500cc gasoline engine or an engine of comparable size using other fuels.
ORV: A motor driven off-road recreation vehicle capable of cross-country travel without benefit of a road or trail, on or immediately over land, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrains.
An ATV, and a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV), Side-by-Side (SxS), or 4×4, also fit the definition of an ORV, which is the term most used in Michigan when discussing these types of vehicles.
Crash Statistics Prove ORVs Can Be Dangerous
Many of Michigan’s State Game Areas, found mostly in southern Michigan, strictly prohibits ORV use. But some of the most frequented off-road trails and parks for ORV use are found within State Forests, throughout the Copemish area’s lower peninsula, Bundy Hill Off-Road Park near Jackson, Big Bear Trail just east of Gaylord, Silver Lake Sand Dunes State Park, trails and ORV scramble areas are scattered within Kalkaska County – and not to forget, the thousands of acres of private property which owners run their ORVs on each day. But no matter where the ride location, unfortunately many riders – including young children and teens – will be severely injured or killed in an ORV-related accident each year. The ATV Fatalities Report provided by the Consumer Federation of America included these statistical reviews of ATV accidents reported nationwide in 2018.
- 300 fatalities involved the driver, passenger, and pedestrians.
- A total of 252 ATV drivers died.
- Males represented 84 percent of the deaths, while only 45 females had died from an ATV crash.
- Individuals aged 20 – 29 years old accounted for the most – nearly 19 percent of the deaths. Child drivers, aged 0-15, represented 7 percent of those killed.
- Only 2.7 percent of those involved in ATV related fatalities were wearing a helmet at the time of their accident.
- There were 177 fatal crashes that occurred on a road and 99 while traveling off the road such as in a forest, on a trail or in a field.
- 249 (83 percent) were single-vehicle crashes.
- 106 ATV single-vehicle fatalities involved a rollover crash.
According to a statement released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in 2018, at least 53 children under the age of 16 lost their lives due to ATVs, and an estimated 26,800 children were injured severely enough to require treatment in a hospital emergency department. Michigan saw only two fatal ATV crashes in 2018, including a 12-year-old girl who was experienced in riding. She was driving with her 14-year-old sister, who was critically injured, on their grandma’s property in Missaukee County. Rough terrain and speed were determined as the cause.
Speed Is Top Contributing Factor in Michigan ORV Crashes
Out of the total number of ORV accidents reported in Michigan in 2017, 24 percent were a result of people driving too fast, and 16 percent of those riders were not wearing a helmet. Speed, careless and reckless driving are the primary contributing factors for ORV accidents, but there are many other causes for crashes that could create life-threatening injuries, including:
- rash driving
- distracted driving
- vehicle and vehicle accessory defects
- poor operator judgment
- lack of protective gear such as a helmet
- a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- driver distractions such as cell phone use
- riding on paved roads or dangerous paths
- toddlers and children riding in the front
- packing the vehicle beyond the recommended weight
- negligence of other drivers
In Michigan, riders 16 years old and younger must take an approved ORV education course and fully understand the rules and regulations before riding, carry an ORV safety certificate, wear a helmet, and have direct visual supervision by an adult at all times.
Follow These Basic Safety Recommendations on Your Next Ride
We want outdoor enthusiasts of all ages to enjoy a thrilling ride on their favorite type of ORV, but when a trip turns tragic, victims are often left with life-changing injuries, such as head and facial injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and neck and spinal cord injuries including paralysis. All drivers and passengers should be aware of these risks and follow the basic recommendations and ORV use regulation set by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR).
- Ride sober.
- Always wear a helmet.
- Make sure you are familiar with your machine and are operating within your and your machines’ limits.
- Size the ORV appropriate for the rider.
- Only transport a passenger when the ORV has been manufactured to carry a passenger. Aftermarket add-ons do not permit a passenger to ride on/in a machine. Refer to the manufacturer’s user manual for clarification.
- Ride with a group.
- Create a ride plan and share it with others. A ride plan includes the times and locations you will be riding, along with check-in points.
- Know your terrain and be prepared to adjust for changing environmental conditions.
- Ensure the area you intend to ride is open to ORV activity.
- Stay on the trail.
- Ride on the right side of the trail.
- Stay off state highways (those designated as M or US).
Like any other crash, being involved in an ORV accident can happen quickly and result in a serious injury to a person and property damage. Always stop immediately at the scene and secure emergency medical aid or transportation for those who need it.
ORV/ATV Crash Injury and Michigan Wrongful Death Attorneys
If you or your child has been hurt or died in an ORV/ATV accident caused by someone else’s negligence, we will work to ensure your family receives the maximum compensation for your suffering. With our areas of expertise and ability to serve clients all over Michigan, the legal team at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm is ready to help you today.
Call The Lee Steinberg Law Firm today for a FREE consultation with one of our experienced Michigan auto accident attorneys: 1-800-LEE-FREE.