PARKERSBURG - West Virginia ranked No. 1 in all-terrain vehicle rider deaths per 10 million people, said officials.
West Virginia claimed the highest rate of death among ATV riders, ranking at an average of 105 deaths per 10 million people in 2011, said Russ Rader, senior vice president of communications with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The second highest state was Wyoming, with 70 deaths per 10 million people, he said.
From 2007 through 2011, 1,701 ATV rider deaths were reported on public roads in the United States, said Rader. Of those killed, only 13 percent of drivers and 6 percent of passengers were wearing helmets during the accident, said Rader.
West Virginia reported 96 deaths of ATV riders from 2007-2001, claiming third place behind Kentucky, with 122 deaths, and Pennsylvania, with 97 deaths, during the five-year period, said Rader.
Although third in the number of deaths, it was the highest amount of deaths when averaged out in a per-10-million way, he said.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released its latest report on ATV rider deaths on Dec. 19. It included data from the 2011 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System, said Rader.
The information has only recently been released, said Rader.
Although ATVs are capable of reaching highway speeds, the low-pressure tires they feature are not designed to be used on paved surfaces, said Rader.
Most models are not designed to prevent roll-overs, which adds to the dangers when highway speeds are involved, he said.
A dramatic increase in ATV use has been reported over the 2001-2010 period, Rader said. A total of 5.6 million ATVs were owned in 2001 in America.
That number rose to 10.6 million in 2010, he said. The increasing popularity of the ATV has led to a nationwide rise in deaths from reckless use of the vehicles, he said.
Many of these accidents could have been prevented by the rider slowing down and wearing a helmet, said Rader. A total of 90 percent of all ATV deaths involved males ages 16 and older, he said.
Two-thirds of those 1,701 fatal ATV accidents occurred on public or private paved roads, said Rader. Nine out of 10 of the reported deaths were riders, with only 1 out of 10 being passenger deaths, he said.
About 87 percent of those fatally injured were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash, he said.
Among those fatally injured, 43 percent had blood alcohol levels of 0.08 or greater, said Rader.
Three-quarters of those fatal accidents involved only a single ATV, Rader said. A total of 56 percent of those fatal wrecks involved a roll-over, Rader said.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggested that states consider adding or strengthening laws that prohibit vehicles on public roads, and to consider increasing the punishment for violating helmet laws, said Rader.
ATV stability during roll-over situations should be investigated by manufacturers as well, Rader said.