Johns Hopkins report: ATVs are deadlier than motorcycles, OMG!

Dailies -



Not wanting to incite panic or anything to fear-crazed moms and unhinged legislators, Reuters reporter Nancy Lapid’s first sentence reads like a soothing commercial for Jaws VI, “If you think an all-terrain vehicle, or ATV, is safer than a motorcycle, think again.” Just to make sure you get the message, death-by-ATV is mentioned no less than 5 times throughout the article. And if you think it couldn’t get any… Ugh, yeah, it totally gets worse.

It turns out the reporter’s choice of words is mild compared to the implications made by Dr. Stephen Bowman, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy. Speaking against not just ATVs but the entire industry, he is quoted openly accusing dealers of purposefully up-selling ATVs that are too big and powerful for the children the ATVs are being purchased for. The good doctor may as well have just called them a bunch of shifty-eyed baby killers.

Not bothering with annoying issues like America’s dreadfully low rider safety awareness and virtually non-existent rider education programs, the Reuters sleuth cheerily informs us that ATV-related visits to the emergency in Canada fell by 50% last year thanks to banning children 16 and under from having any fun whatsoever. Clearly banning was the answer all along. Way to go, Canada.

And now there’s Massachusetts, haven to liberalism in the classical sense, which has just passed a similar ban against kids under 14 on October 1st. Pat yourself on the back, Massachusetts. Frankly, we’re awestruck by this terrible news, made even more frustrating by the fact that the passing of the Massachusetts bill has yet to cause any kind of a stir.

Which means nobody cares about banning the sale of a bunch of clearly unsafe death machines to adults with children. And that’s the scariest news of all, because banning has clearly become the acceptable solution to the dangers of a kind of adventure all of us are here for.


  • s0crates82

    “thanks to banning children 16 and under from having any fun whatsoever”

    uh huh. so… they’re plugged into the matrix or something until the come of age?

  • Mark D

    I live in Boston, and this is the first I’ve heard of the ban. Thanks for bringing it to my, and hopefully other’s, attention. I’ve never ridden an ATV before, and I’m definitely not under 13, but still, “First they came for the Communists, but I didn’t speak up because I’m not a Communist…”

    I’ll do a little digging and see if I can find a vote roster so we know who to send letters of concern to.

    • John

      It’s the communists that are coming, actually.

    • pplassm

      The ban does not apply to organized races, just what your kids do in your backyard.

  • nicktp

    That’s it! I’m selling my atv and buying a kite. So long, HfL, I’m only going to read kite blogs from now on.

  • Mattro

    this shit is hilarious. all the pro atv riders have been on the track since their respective ages were in the single-digits.

    there must not be any satellite manufacturers for atv production companies or their sister operations in massachusetts. trade unions would be flipping out.

  • redblur360

    They should research the statistics of roll-overs and side impact crashes of children driving power wheels so they can ban those too while their at it. Pow Pow Power-Wheels!

  • MichaelMM

    From Grant’s article:

    “Not bothering with annoying issues like America’s dreadfully low rider safety awareness and virtually non-existent rider education programs…”

    That is what I am talking about. It’s not just dreadfully low safety awareness. That’s just scratching the surface of the subject. It is like folks in this country actively ignore basic training and decent practices that not only make them safer, but faster too. Then when folks fuck themselves up, all it does is create Panic-Moms. These Panic-Mom whips themselves up into a hysteria over whatever fucked up their little kid, and go complain en mass to whoever is their legislative representative. These representative – let’s call them pussy-crats (party affiliation means nothing when trying to get votes) – will be happy to ban whatever is distressing the Panic-Moms. Now we all pay because somebody was an idiot. Rinse and repeat until every last thing of interest is gone.

    • richard gozinya

      Best summation of the nanny statists I’ve ever seen.

    • Bronson

      Panic-Moms and Pussy-Crats. Awesome!

  • vic

    a bit off topic but do people drive atv’s on the road in the us?because here they do and i must say they are the most dangerous thing on wheels.great off roaders though especially on the beach durring the off season

    • Patrick from Astoria

      As a general rule they’re illegal for on-road use here. No licensing, no emissions controls, no safety checks, sort of like non-dual-sport dirtbikes. Occasionally a tag is required to allow for use in controlled forested areas, but that’s a different issue.

      Sometimes the stunter dudes will run one around the neighborhood in urban areas, doing wheelies and making noise and in general being annoying, but again, pretty illegal. But most stay in back lots or on dirt courses or on trails or on trailers.

      • HammSammich

        There are several places in ID and MT where it is legal to drive ATV’s on the road, but I believe it is restricted to local roads as they are still prohibited from State Roads/Highways.

  • Core

    Wasn’t there a law passed, or the talks of a law, that banned the sell of atvs… for kids, not too long ago? In the US?

    Just curious. I thought I read something about that…

    Anyways I don’t think banning is the solution. I think its basically like running from a problem rather than looking it in the face and solving it. But it is the cheaper of the two choices.

    • masonapostol

      There was a law related to lead content. If the vehicle components are below the lead threshold, then they are allowed. Links:

      RacerX article

      The actual legislation.

      • Grant Ray

        Actually, HFL broke that story. The link is in the article above, but you can just click here.

  • Pete

    Banning is not the answer, but I would never buy one of these things for kids (I’m not a parent so I should probably shut the hell up). I would get them a dirt bike or a kart once they were old enough, but ATVs, having driven them several times, are less fun and super unstable IMHO (unstable in the short wheel-base, large power, higher center of gravity type of way). I have driven ATVs about a dozen times and half those times people have flipped them over or crashed them in some way. These were untrained riders, but the fact remains. People are more cautious on dirt bikes until they get the feel of it down, but for some reason the four wheels give the illusion of stability and inspires confidence where it should not.

    • pplassm

      The bar to operation is too low. Super Hunky said it best, “The best thing about quads is any idiot can ride one. The worst thing about quads is any idiot can ride one.”

    • MichaelMM

      Right on the money, dude!

  • cdsv

    I want to ban everything, but mostly just banning things.

  • MTGR

    Slippery slope here we go!

    Soon we will all be locked in padded rooms for our own safety (and to force us to watch TV where ads can sell us “government approved safe” stuff to boost the economy.

  • pplassm

    I am a long-time off-road rider and I really HATE ATVs.

    They let too many people into the woods who do not belong. The result has been catastrophic to off road motorcycling.

    Ban them.

  • John

    I beg to differ, but “classical liberalism” is now called “libertarianism” or even, gasp, “conservatism”. What you’re talking about is neo-liberalism, which, rather than protecting your freedoms and rights, decides which freedoms and rights are good for you [society] and which aren’t.

    • Grant Ray

      Actually, I’m aware of the meaning. Massachusetts is historically libertarian, Boston itself being once commonly referred to as the “Cradle of Liberty.” Ironic, no?

      • John

        Ah. I wouldn’t call it a “haven” as much as a long ago birthplace.

      • pplassm

        You haven’t been to Boston lately, have you?

    • richard gozinya

      That’s not neoliberalism. Neoliberalism puts the private business sector ahead of all else (A simplified definition, but I don’t want to write a thesis on the subject). It’s an often misused term, much like neoconservatism. As for people who like banning things and telling others what to do, there’s no shortage of that on either side of the aisle.

      • John

        Sorry, I mean neo-socialists, which seek to enslave [control and tax] the means of production rather than wishing to own it outright. And take advantage of every “crisis” to expand on these powers.

        • richard gozinya

          Neosocialism hasn’t been around since the 1930s.

          • John

            Coulda fooled me.

  • Glenngineer

    Jesus, I live in Mass and I didn’t hear about the ban, either.

    I actually ran into some kids, probably under 14, on ATVs in the trails near my fathers house, where I grew up.

    I was on my Strom, and I got off to take some pictures.

    One of the kids stopped and came up to me, very timid, and asked for my permission to ride there.

    I am getting old, I think.

  • John

    Well, if they really want to save the children, ban taking children anywhere in a car.

    • cdsv

      Hell, cut out the middle man and just ban children.

  • generic1776

    Say it isn’t so Hopper!

    oh, the other J. Hopkins…

    I did a serious double take on this one.

    • T Diver

      We all did that.

  • circuitsports

    when kids can no longer enjoy off roading – the sole reason it was created – hitler wins

    These assholes with there safety nazi attitudes who only care enough to screw with everyone elses life will suffer 1000 deaths in hell as they watch there children turn into spineless jellyfish at the mercy of all other nations and there family name lost to history through due to a sexual relationships.

  • circuitsports

    if there goal was to turn the nation against itself by stripping away the only thing that matters = you win assholes. life is now pointless

  • circuitsports

    now let’s see if they actually publish my comment

    “I don’t know what kind of pointless existence the author resides in but the ability to live as ones sees fit is the cornerstone of humanity – safty nazi fear mongering brings nothing but socialist evil protectionism that will ultimately lead to the kind of spineless jellyfish that are happy to simply exist without purpose.

    If you really believe that you are doing any good instead of the pure evil that’s obviuos to anyone else with actual knowledge of the topic, not only do I lament for you and your offspring but I for the first time feel a strong urge to spit on your name in protest of all that is freedom and life”

  • kidchampion

    So, this study was just the doctors at Johns Hopkins looking out their windows at the Wildout Wheelie Boyz?

  • CG

    My dad put seat belts in our brand new 1962 Chevy Impala convertible. I have never had a car without seatbelts. I am against laws mandating seat belt use. I have always worn a helmet while riding my bike (since 1971). I am against helmet laws. These things are not contradictory. Sigh.

    About everything my friends and I did before we were sixteen is not allowed for the kids of today. How come all my friends are alive?
    Seriously, you younger folk really have to take my generation out and shoot us for what we have done to you. Or Soylent Green. Whatever.

    • Mark D

      I think helmet laws and seatbelt laws are too different be equated together. Its the government’s job to make sure that every car has a seat belt in it, but not its job to make you wear one. Unless there is a law requiring the purchase of a helmet with a motorcycle, that’s very different from helmet laws.

  • michael uhlarik


    To clarify Canada’s position : it is unlawful to operate motor vehicles over a certain power if you are under 16, period. This applies to all recreational vehicles, including snowmobiles, scooters, motorcycles, etc. You can ride legally, for example, a CR80, or a 50cc scooter, that sort of thing.

    Of course, most of the country is rural, and most teens ride dad’s/big brother’s/the neighbour’s bigger machines, and its not like the Mounties are banging down your door at 2am like the Gestapo.

    Is this really so wrong? Legislating rules founded in common sense, like not letting hormone-soaked tweens and early teenagers operate high performance machinery, just does not seem like a gross infringement of “freedom”. It sets a president to a society concerned with its young people’s well being, making it clear that “this is probably a bad idea”, but is not enforced to the extreme, allowing a reasonable amount of flexibility. As a kid growing up in rural, northern Ontario, we all ran 600cc snowmobiles on the roads under age, because it was the only practical means of getting around. The cop knew, our folks knew, and we all knew it was not ideal, but made a local judgment call. The law was there, preventing truly foolish abuse that would surely have lead to many, many pointless deaths and injuries.

    I think some Americans should really stop viewing regulation as barriers to freedom, but it them as barriers to abuse and stupidity.


    • Patrick from Astoria

      Thank you. That last sentence is all too infrequently stated and understood here in Ayn Rand’s America, what with the noisy insistence on Freedom! (usually economic, often purely selfish) at all costs and a dismissal of, oh, epic banking crises and monstrous oil spills and such.

      Have to make sure the regulations are well-written (that’s often the hard part, depending on who’s doing the writing and who’s influencing the writer). But humans have repeatedly proven that they’re not quite up to the task of existing in a stable respectful anarchic system yet, and as long as we have the abusers and idiots out there, we have to have limits.

      Not a fun perspective, but better to understand that well-written rules and regs are important than suffer the ongoing clash between the nannies and the absolutist live-free-and/or-die types.

    • Grant Ray

      Michael, my issue is with the act of legislative banning as a solution to fear in the place of proper education and, when necessary, moderate regulation. What you and I did as kids in our respective rural areas isn’t so easy anymore. And while I haven’t met any Mounties, I have met your wonderfully bright CBP, who confiscated all my identification, my bike packed with all my belongings, plus the key. They held me for well over an hour without so much as more than a grunt and squinting glares for why. While I was detained, the CBP also unloaded an entire busload of physically and mentally disabled elderly tourists for fingerprint checks.

      Just sayin’.

    • pplassm

      So, the law has no effect, right? Personal judgment and parental supervision are the proper way to regulate these activities.

      If so, then the law “is an ass” and needs to be repealed/changed, as there is no sense to it.

      I still want ATVs banned, but not for those reasons.

  • g.r.b

    well said grant,

    the only way to eliminate the risk of dieing is to seize living, and the more you want to eliminate it the less you live.

    life implies death

    why would you want to be dead already just because your afraid of dieing? why should you be afraid of death, its a miss conception

    the problem is not death itself but being afraid of it, being afraid of death prevents you from living thus your already dead.

    their needs to be a very conscious and personal balance between survival and living, and it should be us along with our parents who decide, not a standardized law for everyone

  • kidchampion

    Isn’t the issue the MISPERCEPTION that the ATV’s are safer than motorcycles? And to address that misperception, can you rely on a network of manufacturers and dealers to alert customers/parents that this is a misperception? Should the rest of society contribute money to educate the public about this problem? The regulation is occurring because the industry that profits from the product isn’t in front of the issue.

  • Lockheed_Tvr

    As an aside to all the very legitimate discussion about freedom and responsibility, I recently found out that many off-road (motorcycle) riders refer to ATV riders as “quad-tards”.

    Regardless of the fairness of the response, the loudest “offending” group gets the negative attention that harms all of our freedoms. See the new California loud pipes law as another example.

    If you like doing something that is even slightly outside the mainstream, you have to act in a way that protects that thing that you like to do. “Normal” people get worked up when your “activities” are brought to their attention. ATV riders are often “scene-ruiners” and they don’t seem to be at all self aware about that.

    • pplassm

      Around here we call them Fu-Kwads.

      They seem to attract the worst in off-road behavior.

  • RanDryRacer

    This is what the AMA fights for, your rights to ride. Federal and State Governments are working every day to restrct and take away your rights to ride.

    I suggest everyone spend the forty bucks and join. You get a monthly magazine to fill you in on the latest fights and law changes, on top of racing info. Plus other perks.

    As many different aspects of riding that there are out there we are all lumped together, responsible people and jerks alike.

    Remember, when in doubt GAS IT !

  • The Lawyer

    I thought you were talking about the “Hopper,” i.e., I totally Hoppered in turn 1 and Xaused my bike.

  • HammSammich

    It’s interesting that this report came out. I have a good friend who is an insurance claims adjuster and she’s been pointing this out for years, claiming that she sees far more injury and death claims related to ATV use than off-road motorcycle use. Her experience would seem to closely integrate with Grant’s point about lack of training as well, since she states that most of the deaths and injuries related to ATV use are caused by rollover accidents. Rollovers are arguably almost entirely due to lack of training – not knowing what your ATV can/can’t do before riding it.

  • Mountain Goat

    I see ATVs all over the hare scramble track every weekend, usually going the wrong way. Helmet the only protective gear, wife beater, shorts, sandals.

    The problem with quads:
    1. Any idiot can thumb a throttle. Very easy to go fast in a straight line, very hard to turn fast since you have hang off and slide it.
    2. You can’t slide most of them because they’re trail machines with a high CG. So you go around a corner too fast, you go down.
    3. They weight as much as much as a street cruiser, making the above even worse.
    4. When they roll over, they roll over and over and over.

    I was almost killed on one of them. It was the end of the day of riding and I was dicking around (helmetless) on a little 5-ft pyramid of gravel next to the barn we kept the quads in. Just popping over it in first gear. On the fateful attempt I high-centered it on the point of the gravel pile and it tipped over sideways.

    Seeing as how I wasn’t moving, I just hopped off. The quad barrel-rolled down the gravel pile and hit me in the ass like a sprinting 500-lb linebacker, sending me sprawling backwards against the opened barn door right where the lower hinge was bolted to the door.

    The 3 bare bolts stuck out of the hinge about half an inch and cut the hell out of the back of my head, requiring a number of stitches. If I would have hit 3 inches to the right, the bolts would have penetrated my skull. Not cool.

    That’s the last time I rode a quad. I ride a motocross bike (and sport bike) now. AGAAT.

  • Bronson

    Proper training and supervision are key. Sadly, it brings back memories of the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s banning of 3-wheeled ATVs in 1986-’87. To this day I still lust for a mint 1986 Honda ATC250R (among 50 other various bikes).

  • ernie

    ummmmm, it seems that most of the brain trust on this site seem to think that kids should be wrestling around 1000 lb machines capable of speeds a hell of alot faster than the average bicycle. there’s a reason why there’s a minimum age for acquiring a driver’s licence, and most of it has to do with maturity and the common sense that maturity brings, something even a good percentage of adult ATVers seem to lack. if you want to slap your kid on one and tell him to go to it, that’s up to you. sure, education and training are the best ways to produce safer drivers, but an unsupervised twelve year old on an ATV is still stupid. and i’m not sitting in a starbucks in downtown new york or somewhere typing this. i live where this shit goes on. if you don’t like the laws and how they might affect you, be proactive enough before they’re made, rather than doing the “rebel without a cause” thing after the fact. a ban is simply a law that says ” you can’t do this, and if you do there will be consequences”, sort of like laws against murder and rape and theft and slander and speeding and, golly, just about anything they’ve made laws about. love the armchair anarchists

  • ernie

    oh yeah, forgot to mention. don’t know if some of the articles published on this site, when their authors’ opinions are stated, are outright stupidity or attempts at being controversial and inciting debate. i’ll give grant ray the benefit of a doubt and assume there’s some IQ there somewhere. and to g.r.b. ……..what?