Off-Highway Vehicles

Increasing Off-Highway Vehicle Road Access Puts Lives at Risk

By Rachel Weintraub

As the name implies, off-highway vehicles (OHVs) are not designed for on-road use. OHVs have a narrow track and a high center of gravity which creates potential hazards when navigating roadway curves. OHVs can act unpredictably on roadway surfaces, especially with increasing speed.

Despite that OHVs are incompatible and not intended for on-road operation, last month, CFA identified a fourfold increase in the number of state and local proposals seeking to increase OHV road access. For the past three years, CFA and our OHV Safety Coalition have been sending letters in opposition to legislative proposals that seek to increase OHV access to roads. Our coalition, made up of consumer advocates, doctors, and academics, is working to decrease deaths and injuries from OHV use.

On behalf of the OHV Safety Coalition, CFA sends on average three letters per month to state and local entities opposing proposals that increase OHV access to roads. In 2016, CFA sent a total of 30 letters. But in March of this year alone, CFA sent thirteen letters informing policymakers of the dangers of allowing OHVs on roads.

We are in the midst of a disturbing period of increased OHV access. CFA’s 2014 report, “ATVs on Roadways: A Safety Crisis,” found that 35 states (69%) either allow OHVs on roads or allow local jurisdictions to pass ordinances allowing OHVs on local roads. Of those 35 states, 22 (63%) enacted laws increasing legal OHV access to roads in some way since 2004, and four of those states passed such laws in 2013 alone. In 2016, New Mexico passed a law allowing OHVs on roads making it the 36th state that permits OHVs to be operated on roads. Municipalities, counties and states across the country are putting their citizens at risk by permitting OHVs on roads. This trend must be reversed.

Nationally, more OHV deaths occur on-road than off-road. The OHV Safety Coalition documented 612 OHV deaths in 2015, the most recent complete year of data. Of the 612 deaths, 373 (61%) occurred on-road while 212 (35%) occurred off-road. Similarly in 2014, 649 deaths were documented, with 407 (63%) occurring on-road and 217 (33%) occurring off-road.

OHVs should not be driven on roads. And given that industry, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, consumer, and safety advocates are in agreement on that point, states should be working to restrict OHV access to public roads – not increasing access. To reverse this trend, all entities with an interest in OHV safety must clearly inform state and local officials about how dangerous OHVs are when operated on roads.