Author(s): Ward Vanlaar, Heather McAteer, Steve Brown, Jennifer Crain, Steven McFaull
Background. Most types of off-road vehicles (ORVs; this includes snowmobiles, all-terrain
vehicles (ATVs), and dirt bikes) were originally used for work and travel. Such use remains
common in Canada, although their recreational use has also gained popularity in recent years.
An epidemiological injury profile of ORV users is important for better understanding injuries and
their risk factors to help inform injury prevention initiatives. The Traffic Injury Research
Foundation (TIRF) partnered with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to study the
epidemiology of ORV-related injuries.
Aims. The primary aim was to analyse crash and injury data in Canada, including the extent of
alcohol involvement. Secondly, the burden of injury among children and teen ORV drivers in
Canada, as well as passengers, was investigated.
Methods. Descriptive epidemiological statistics were generated using three data sources: first,
TIRF’s National Fatality Database, which is a comprehensive, pan-Canadian, set of core data
on all fatal motor vehicle crashes; second, TIRF’s Serious Injury Database, which contains
information on persons seriously injured in crashes; and, third, PHAC’s Canadian Hospitals
Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), a surveillance system currently operating
in the emergency departments of 11 paediatric and four general hospitals across Canada.
Results. Between 1990 and 2010, fatality rates per 100,000 population increased among
ATV/dirt bike operators while the fatality rate among snowmobilers declined. Of particular
concern, among fatally injured female ATV users, children aged 0-15 years comprised the
highest proportion of any age group at 33.8%. Regarding alcohol use, among fatally injured
snowmobile and ATV/dirt bike operators tested for alcohol, 64% and 59% tested positive,
respectively. Alcohol involvement in adult ORV crashes remains an important factor.
Discussion and conclusions. While no data were available in this study regarding the permileage
risk associated with the use of ORVs, it is clear that this risk is not insignificant. The use
of ORVs can be dangerous, as reflected by the fatality and serious injury data available for
Canada. Of great concern, alcohol seems to be an important contributing factor to this problem.
In light of the growing popularity of ORVs, prevention and mitigation measures are required to
address this issue.