ATV vs Dirt Bike: Which One Is More Dangerous? [Explained]

ATV riders on the verge of overturning and having an accident due to a too sharp turn

There are good reasons why people choose an ATV or dirt bike for their off-roading experience. Maneuverability, flexibility, and convenience are some of the important aspects that riders look for in these vehicles. However, when it is about safety, which is more dangerous ATV or dirt bike?

Statistics and research show that ATVs are dangerous compared to dirt bikes. When it comes to safety, dirt bikes cause fewer fatal accidents than ATVs. While accidents on dirt bikes are frequent, riders of ATVs crashes tend to suffer serious trauma or even die under certain circumstances.

ATVs versus dirt bikes: Which is more dangerous?

If you believe that an all-terrain vehicle or ATV can provide more protection compared to a 2-wheeler dirt bike, think again. There are interesting safety statistics about accidents both from an ATV and dirt bike and the research will make you think otherwise. 

Research by a team from John Hopkins University found out some interesting facts that include statistics related to injuries from ATV crashes. And, these were related to the ATV accidents that occurred between 1997 and 2006 in the US. Here are the highlighting points of the report that you may want to have a look at. 

  • Around 50% of ATV riders are more likely to die after succumbing to the injuries from crashes compared to a similar type of injuries from dirt bike crashes 
  • ATV riders have a 42% chance of placing under ventilator after a serious accident compared to dirt bike riders
  • In 55% of the cases, ATV victims are likely to be admitted to the ICU (intensive care unit) of the hospital compared to similar injuries from a dirt bike accident
  • Female riders aging between 15 and 17 were mostly hospitalized leading to a steep rise of about 250%
  • Besides, there has been an increase in the number of male victims between 15 and 17 as well
  • Hospitalizations because ATV accidents increased 150% in young riders less than 18 years

It is interesting to note that researchers didn’t find out why results from ATV crashes are so deadly. Although the research from Johns Hopkins University shows that around 60% of injured riders were wearing helmets compared to 30% of ATV riders, researchers strongly believe that helmets alone can’t be responsible for the differences. 

Most importantly, when riders of these vehicles were wearing helmets, four-wheeler riders tend to have more injuries. Moreover, some researchers believe that the weight of the ATV might crush the fallen rider. 

ATVs vs dirt bikes: Security and stability

There is no denying that ATVs are steadier compared to dirt bikes. Despite this fact, it doesn’t guarantee the stability of an ATV. Because an ATV has four wheels, it can stand on its own and it is quite easy to learn how to ride it. 

But when it is about safety, the story is a bit different. The notion that ATVs stand firm gives riders a false sense of security. As such, it leads to fatal accidents that cause serious traumatic conditions or even death. Four-wheelers move too fast and controlling them requires skills.

These vehicles negotiate tight corners too quickly and jump over surfaces at high speeds, often leading to accidents. While many people will suggest wearing helmets when riding an ATV, it rarely helps. Besides, ATV riders encounter serious injuries compared to dirt bike riders even after wearing helmets.

In a nutshell, you may feel that an ATV is more stable than a dirt bike, the former one tends to flip around from time to time. And, that’s because of the center of gravity that remains very high. As a result, the quad experiences frequent rollovers leading to fatal injuries to the rider.

Why ATV accidents are more deadly?

As said, dirt bike riders tend to encounter more crashes than ATV riders. However, dirt bike accidents cause less harm compared to the accidents caused by ATVs. ATV accidents are indeed more deadly than accidents caused by dirt bikes. Here are some reasons that make ATV crashes deadly.

  • ATVs have relatively higher weight and can roll over on the rider in a wreck
  • The false sense of security and belief that ATVs are stable means that riders are willing to take dangerous risks
  • It is easier to learn riding an ATV compared to dirt bikes. That way, beginner ATV riders get the feeling that they know everything about riding

Are ATVs dangerous for young riders?

It might surprise you but age plays an important role when it is about following the safety measures. And, it remains the same for both dirt bike and ATV riders. ATVs are more dangerous to young riders, especially below 16 years. 

Many researchers believe that young riders are safer when they ride dirt bikes than all-terrain vehicles. But why is it so? In most cases, it is the parents that can be held responsible. Some parents let their kids ride an ATV of the wrong sizes. 

For example, you may have seen parents buying a quad for their 12-year-old-kids without considering the size that relates to their ages. In addition, parents tend to buy bigger ATVs so that they don’t have to spend buying another one when the kids grow.

Although the philosophy of saving for the future work wonder for certain items, it is not a good idea when it comes to buying an ATV in terms of safety. A full-size ATV for kids is a threat to their safety. So, it is wise to discourage this belief by all means.

ATV vs dirt bike: Frequency of accidents

When it comes to riding on uneven or rugged terrains, dirt bikes are more susceptible to crashes compared to ATVs. But keep in mind never to mix the fact that ATVs are safe to ride than dirt bikes. As you know, ATV crashes are more serious but they don’t happen frequently. 

Even if accidents occur, the victims experience serious injuries after the crash. And, in certain conditions, they may even succumb to their injuries. However, if you like to enjoy leisure rides around your farm or uneven surfaces without being hard, buying an ATV should be the best option.

The four-wheelers are comfortable and safe if you are not planning to push your limits with the vehicle by riding faster or jumping over uneven terrain. If not, consider buying a dirt bike. That way, you can have full control of the vehicle while maneuvering through rough terrains.

Moreover, there are disparities when it comes to using safety gear when riding an ATV or dirt bike. It is interesting to note that not all countries or states impose the same laws regarding two-wheelers and four-wheelers. Some states emphasize more on wearing helmets when riding dirt bikes rather than using the same on ATVs.

Hence, wearing helmets are mandatory for riders on dirt bikes and rare for ATV riders in those states. In addition, most ATV riders overlook the concept of wearing helmets as protective gear when riding these vehicles. 

These are the main reasons that explain the steep rise of fatal accidents for ATV riders. There is no question that protective gear helps a lot when it is about the safety of riders. Also, they play a significant role to prevent certain types of injuries whenever an accident occurs.

How protective gear and helmets can make a difference?

As discussed above, the team at the John Hopkins University is yet to find out the real reasons that lead to serious injuries to the ATV riders compared to dirt bike riders. What’s interesting is that they even looked at the helmet usage and found out the following facts.

  • 30% of ATV riders involved in crashes were wearing helmets 
  • 60% of dirt bike riders were wearing helmets when they experienced accidents
  • Even when both the riders were wearing helmets, the ATV riders experienced severe injuries

Researchers were able to find out that ATV riders tend to wear less protective clothing compared to dirt bike riders. Also, the relatively higher weight of the ATVs than dirt bikes could be a contributing factor. Another reason is a false notion that riding an ATV feels safer.

And, there is no need to wear protective clothing. On the contrary, dirt bike riders wear necessary protective clothing and helmet knowing the dangers of riding on dirt bikes. 

How can you stay safe when riding an ATV?

Follow the safety guidelines when riding an ATV.

  • Wear eye protection goggles
  • Always wear a helmet 
  • Use reinforced boots when off-roading
  • Try to wear gloves always
  • Wear long-sleeve shirts and pants even if the weather is hot and humid
  • Never ride an ATV twice your size
  • Don’t allow kids to ride powerful quads – Instead, let kids ride ATVs thats made for kids
  • It isn’t good to overload the ATV
  • Avoid riding in rough or steep terrain where you can roll over


From the facts discussed above, it is clear that riding a dirt bike is less dangerous compared to riding an ATV. Several studies have shown that ATV accidents are likely to cause serious injuries that may even lead to the death of the rider. 

Some of the reasons that add to the worry include the weight of the ATV, the speed, use of safety gear, maneuverability, and stability versus that of a dirt bike. Besides, riders are encouraged to consider safety measures whenever they are out.