Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Computer Modeling and the Risk of All-Terrain Vehicle Rollover

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have been associated with accidents. For the uninitiated, they may appear safe and easy to operate, but the fact is that they are heavy and powerful machines that must be carefully operated to avoid mishaps.

The American College of Emergency Physicians held a Research Forum in association with its Annual Scientific Meeting in Denver, Colorado in October, 2012. One of the presentations was entitled “Computer Modeling to Investigate the Risk of All-Terrain Vehicle Rollover While Turning.” CA Jennisen and colleagues used a computerized free body diagram of an ATV with a passenger to investigate ATV crash mechanisms and risk factors. The objective of their study was to explore how various factors might affect ATV rollover likelihood while the vehicle was being turned.

The results are instructive. Surfaces with higher friction coefficients, such as dry pavement, increase the likelihood of a rollover while turning. A typical dirt trail would require a 16.4 mile per hour speed limit to avoid a slide with an average adult male driver making a 60-foot radius turn. While a slide is not a rollover, it leads to loss of control of the vehicle. The risk of rollover increases with tighter turns. The minimum turning radius is around 8 feet, which only allows a maximum speed of around 10 miles per hour to avoid a rollover on a high friction surface. So, surface friction, total rider mass, velocity and turning radius are rollover determinants that are under control of the operator.

Education, enforcement of no-passenger rules, and speed limits might help prevent rollover crashes. If manufacturers wish to improve the situation, they will design vehicles with lower centers of gravity, optimize AT width, introduce roll bars and safety belts, and perhaps consider a speed governor that can be deployed based upon the angle of turn.

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Tags: General Interest , On the Road

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.