Outdoor recreation: Two-wheeled off-road safer than ATVs

Review shows ATV crashes much more likely to kill or injure than dirt bikes-

This is probably a big surprise. It is to me. I broke my collarbone on a dirt bike way back in ’84.  I didn’t ride them again.

Surprise: Two Wheels Safer Than Four in Off-Road Riding and Racing, Study Finds. ScienceDaily.





  1. Virginia Avatar

    I may have already written about this – my nephew (too young to be on an off-road atv at the time) was killed while riding one up in the Big Horn Mountains. It turned over on him and crushed him. These vehicles are evil for many reasons. We camped last weekend up by Soda Butte (no bears in the campground, just a fox) and coming back Sunday, vehicle after vehicle heading up the mountain pulling ATVs behind them – I couldn’t believe how many (hunters, I suppose).

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The article I posted speculates that one of the main reasons for the higher ATV death rate is just that — so heavy it crushes the riders.

    1. Virginia Avatar

      Agreed Ralph – as the article states, most ATV riders do not wear helmets whereas two wheeled vehicle riders might be inclined to wear a helmet. However, if you are crushed by the ATV, a helmet doesn’t really matter. I am against ATVs in principle – I do understand why those who cannot walk or ride a horse use them. But, I will always wish they had never been invented. They and their riders are responsible for ruining lots of country being able to go where one used to only access by walking or horseback. The same goes for snowmobiles – tearing up the country where they should not be going.

  3. Save bears Avatar

    I don’t agree, that they are evil, but I do see a lack of training going on! That is what is evil, I think that everybody should be properly trained in the use of both ATV’s as well as Motorcycles, especially for off road use, my grandson recently torn his knee up in an accident(labor day weekend), also broke his nose, he was riding a two wheeler and ran into a 4 wheeler, it was his fault! I attribute it to a lack of training and understanding exactly what is required to ride these vehicles safely. I don’t live in the same area as he does, if I did, I would have required and attended a safety class with him as well as make sure he fully understands how to ride safely.

    I own an ATV and have used it to access areas I can’t walk into because of my disability, but the majority of the time(90%) it is used for pulling logs and clearing my own property…

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Save Bears,

      It seems to me that given the difficulty of most ATV trails, certainly pre-teens should not be allowed to drive an ATV.

      I see it all the time.

      1. Save bears Avatar


        I agree, my grandson, is 17 years old, and a licensed driver, but his skills are still lacking in the offroad dept..

    2. Elk275 Avatar

      What is even more dangerous than motorcycles or 4 wheelers? Horses. A number of years ago there was an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle about a former emergency nurse getting her master’s in nursing. Her thesis was about horse back injuries. She visited Montana hospitals and reviewed all of the admissions for horse back injuries and motorcycles injuries and concluded that horses produced more injuries and severer injuries that motorcycles. The interest thing was that no one in the United States had ever looked at horseback injuries and she continued her research after graduation. I have never heard anything else about that study. Today with the vast number of Harleys on the road things may be different.

      Three years ago I was hunting in Gravelly Mountains; the day was snowy, foggy and overcast. I smelled smoke and there were several people and a 13 year old boy around a campfire while others had hike farther up the mountain to pack an elk out. I was smug; I did not have to pack an elk on my back; I had a horse. The campfire felt good and the boy was interested in my horse and started feeding it with grass. We talked, his party had driven their 4 wheelers to the end of the road and had to walk . I said to the boy you people need to get horses and sell those 4 wheelers. He looked at me and said “I am not allow to ride horse nor does my family have or want horses, we have had two people in the family killed by horses”. I rode out of there with a different attitude and my smuggest disappeared.

      1. SAP Avatar

        Elk275 – I would really like to see the research you mention. I have seen a few studies on horse injuries, but the focus is always on the type of injury and its severity.

        What would be helpful to riders is a study of the circumstances of the accident itself: what exactly happened (e.g., there are a lot of wrecks that start just as the rider starts to mount; the horse walks off or jumps away while the rider has one foot in the stirrup; violent dragging ensues, resulting in numerous injuries); the age of the horse; training & experience of both horse & rider; the bit being used; any back or dental issues afflicting the horse; so on . . .

        I talked to a guy who got bucked down in the Missouri Breaks; said it was a total surprise b/c they had been using that horse in the mountains around Yellowstone for weeks prior to that trip. However, sometimes weeks of use — especially with an ill-fitting saddle — can lead to chronic back pain, and that gentle old horse reacts violently to try to find some relief.

        One of my physical therapists (horse AND ATV wrecks have made me very familiar with these guys) says he sees a lot of horse injuries in September and October. It’s usually guys who don’t ride much, getting horses (sometimes rentals or borrowed) that havent been ridden all year; and heading for the hills to put in camp or hunt.

        Someone once said, “horsemanship is really just a collection of good habits.” If you and the horses you use don’t establish good habits together, things can go badly wrong. Horses are inherently dangerous, but I don’t agree with people who say that they are totally unpredictable. The weather is unpredictable to people who don’t know what to look for or aren’t paying attention.

        As to ATVs – yes, they are heavy and can crush you. You can ride them on level terrain without balancing at all; once they start to tip, though, their weight and center of gravity make it really tough to make a correction, unlike a 2-wheeler. And, once the dang thing ends up on top of you, oof. I shredded a knee last year in an ATV wreck out in the sagebrush and consider myself very lucky to have gotten off that easy.

        But, gosh, they are handy in suitable terrain. Travel three times as fast as a trotting horse, pack in a camp by yourself in a day — I understand the appeal. They make near what was far, they make crowded what was quiet country of solitude.

  4. Nancy Avatar

    There have been numerous horse/human accidents in my area over the past couple of years – experienced and inexperienced riders getting bucked off. And over the last couple of months, two ranchers in the area were pinned by their 4-wheelers suffering cuts and brken ribs. Plus the one city guy who lost control and veared over a hillside to avoid running up the backside of a kid on another 4-wheeler. I think too many people regard horses and 4-wheelers as an extension of themselves.

    Walking does seem to be the safest mode of travel. (course one of the local partygoers would dispute that after he fell down the stairs at a bar the other night, breaking ribs, piercing a lung and suffer a nasty gash to the head)