An Olympic Gold Medalist’s Life Changed Forever: ATV Accident Prevention

Tim Miley
Injury Lawyer, Author, & Owner of The Miley Legal Group

A former Olympic swimming champ's tragic ATV accident shines a light on the risk of serious injuries these accidents can cause. Learn some of the dangers of using this type of recreational vehicle, along with some important safety tips.

Dangers of ATV Riding and Its Catastrophic Consequences

In the 1996 Olympics, Amy Van Dyken-Rouen became the first female athlete to win four gold medals. She won two more in the 2000 Olympics. But now this former champion is recovering from surgery after severing her spine and causing paralysis below the waist in an ATV accident.

One of the most troubling aspects of the accident is that she was in a parking lot when her ATV struck a curb. But the impact was enough to send her over a 5- to 7-foot drop-off.

ATVs can flip and roll over easily. In turn, drivers can be ejected from the vehicle or find themselves pinned underneath it. And because ATVs weigh several hundred pounds, the results can be devastating, including severe spine injuries.

Other types of serious physical harm can happen as well. They include:

  • crush injuries;
  • amputation;
  • internal damage;
  • fractures;
  • head injuries (traumatic brain injuries); and
  • fatality, especially when striking a pole or tree.

Another risk of ATV operation occurs when the rider is too small to control the vehicle. Children are especially prone to ATV accidents because of the high speeds they can travel and the difficulty maneuvering turns and other hazards.

Tips for Making the ATV Riding Experience Safer

Wear a helmet.

It's amazing that Amy Van Dyken-Rouen didn't suffer a significant head injury in addition to a spine injury. She wasn't wearing a helmet at the time of her accident. Helmets can reduce the severity of an injury or even prevent one. In West Virginia, riders younger than 18 must wear helmets. It's recommended that riders of all ages wear one.

Take a safety course.

Learning how to operate an ATV is just the first step in preventing an ATV accident. A safety course can teach riders what to do in common situations. The state of West Virginia requires riders 17 and younger to take a safety awareness course. But it's recommended that all riders take a hands-on course.

Avoid paved roads.

Many accidents occur on these types of roads because of the ATV's design. But there is also the risk of colliding with motor vehicles. ATVs aren't allowed on paved roads with more than two lanes or a center line in West Virginia. An exception is when it's crossing from one trail/field to another.

Don't ride with a passenger.

ATVs aren't designed to transport passengers. It's difficult to manipulate when someone else is on the vehicle. West Virginia allows passengers when it's designed for more than one person only. Also, the driver and passenger must be 18 years or older (driver must have a valid driver's license).

Don't drive impaired.

It's dangerous to operate an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It impairs the rider's ability to judge and react.

Contact an Attorney If Injured in an ATV Accident

Whether you're a driver or passenger, if someone else's negligence caused a collision and subsequent spine injury, seek legal advice. An attorney at the Miley Legal Group can file a claim against the liable party for spine injury, property damages and more. Give us a call at 304-931-4088.