ATVs, or all-terrain vehicles, are fun to drive and are popular in Massachusetts. These open-air vehicles are often driven on designated mountain or forest trails over rough terrain, in streams, mud, over rocks, and sometimes in poor weather. But because these vehicles offer little protection to drivers who are easily ejected in a spill or rollover, injuries are not uncommon. 

Although ATVs are far less common than other vehicles, there are over 90,000 accidents that occur annually in the US. Data on accidents and fatalities are not kept annually, but in the last year surveyed in 2014, about 26% of injured ATV drivers were 16 years of age or younger. 

ATV Laws in Massachusetts

As a recreational user, you must register your ATV before using it on either public or private lands. There are more extensive vehicle requirements than for passenger vehicles, including:

  • Always be in possession of your registration and display the numbers on the vehicle to both sides of the forward half of the ATV
  • Numbers must be at least 3 inches in height and ½ inch wide
  • The color of the numbers must contrast against the vehicle’s color
  • Resident registrations are good for 2-years; non-residents for one year
  • All riders must wear a DOT-approved helmet regardless of age
  • ATVs are to have a red rear light and reflector and one or more headlights
  • Equip the ATV with an adequate braking system, spark arrestor, and muffler to keep noise below certain levels if manufactured before 1998
  • No one under the age of 14 may drive an ATV—but there are exceptions for those who are 10-14 so long as they are under adult supervision and are training for a sanctioned race or rally
  • If under 18, you must complete an approved OHV safety course and offer proof of completion when riding on public lands
  • No one under 16 ½ may ride an ATV across a public way unless under adult supervision
  • Riders age 14-16 must be under direct adult supervision at all times and may only operate vehicles no greater than 90cc
  • ATVs are to be operated only during daylight hours
  •  No ATVs exceeding 1000 pounds are permitted on any trails at any time
  • If involved in an injury accident or property damage that exceeds $50, the accident must be reported to law enforcement immediately and a report filed with the Massachusetts Environmental Police within 48-hours

Further, no ATV can  be operated within 150 feet of a private residence without the owner’s permission or be driven at speeds deemed unsafe for conditions. No firearms are allowed in an ATV.

Factors in ATV Accidents

Factors that lead to ATV accidents are not that different from those that cause other types of motor vehicle accidents:

  • Driving while under the influence
  • Driving while distracted—on a cellphone, grooming, eating, or simply not paying attention
  • Excessive speed
  • Driving in poor weather
  • Navigational problems
  • Defective brake or steering system
  • Inexperience
  • Driving on difficult terrain
  • Reckless driving

Since ATVs typically lack doors or windows, riders can easily be ejected and suffer broken limbs, internal injuries, traumatic brain damage, severe cuts and lacerations, and spinal injuries. 

Inexperienced or reckless drivers may collide with other vehicles or large objects on the trail, skid into boulders or trees, and flip over.

What to Do in an ATV Accident

Regardless of how the accident happened, you must report the accident as soon as possible to law enforcement and within 48-hours to the state’s environmental police. Even if the accident may appear to have been your fault and did not involve colliding with another vehicle, you should have your vehicle inspected for possible braking or steering defects that led to the accident. It is possible that the seller of the ATV failed to advise you of a recall notice. Also, the trail or road where you crashed may have an extensive history of rollover or other accidents and failed to remove the hazards or warn users of the danger.

In any event, follow these steps:

  1. Take photos of the accident area and ATV at its point of rest
  2. If there are witnesses, obtain their contact information 
  3. Be sure to get immediate medical attention
  4. Notify your ATV insurer immediately
  5. Call an experienced motor vehicle accident lawyer

Retain Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer Paul Tetzel

ATVs are not the same as passenger vehicles, and there are different registration, driving, and operation regulations that apply. Most ATV accidents are single vehicle, but this fact alone does not mean you may not have a cause of action against the manufacturer, another vehicle operator, or other entity. 

In any event, it is essential that you contact motor vehicle accident lawyer Paul Tetzel to investigate the circumstances of your case and to advise you of a possible injury claim. Call today for a free consultation at (617)-742-1700.