Canadian study tests ATVs for stability, finds need for regulation
From the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, where vast open spaces and rugged terrain translate to a love of off-roading, comes a university study that tests the lateral stability of all-terrain vehicles and questions the standards, or rather lack of standards, that govern their safety.
According to the Edmonton Journal, last year a Canadian investigative news program asked Dr. David Checkel of the University of Alberta to help test ATV stability and safety for a report. Dr. Checkel, a mechanical engineering professor, agreed to conduct the tests and assembled a team of engineering students to help him.
“There was a concern that ATVs were rolling over unexpectedly, even on smooth terrain,” Dr. Checkel told the Edmonton Journal. Among the engineers in the test group, some were experts in vehicle stability measurement for trucks and race cars and some had developed vehicle stability testing equipment using grant money.
“We can measure both theoretical and practical values for the lateral stability, or resistance to roll-over, for various sizes of vehicles,” Dr. Checkel said of his qualified test group.
Dr. Checkel explained that, in the absence of government regulations, ATV manufacturers have accepted a lateral stability value, but that a standard engineering method for testing that stability doesn’t exist. Dr. Checkel said that ATV manufacturers have resisted adopting a standard testing method.
Dr. Checkel’s group developed testing methods for the study and then put nine different ATVs through a gamut of tests.
“In the end, we measured both the theoretical lateral stability and practical tipping point to show they both had the same trends,” Dr. Checkel said, adding that he expected all the ATVs to pass the industry standard for tipping, but one did not.
The Edmonton Journal didn’t specify which ATV failed to perform as well as the others, but it reported that the manufacturer disputed Dr. Checkel’s findings, saying that it had obtained different results using different testing methods.
But, according to Dr. Checkel, “This shows the importance of engineering standards, since different test methods could give a measurement above or below the agreed minimum value.”
Regulatory standards are important because ATVs contain some “inherent hazards” and offer “minimal protection in an accident,” Dr. Checkel said.
“All motor vehicles are useful and fun because we can go faster and farther than we could on our own feet,” Dr. Checkel told the Edmonton Journal. “They are also dangerous, since they allow us to go faster and hit things harder than our bodies have evolved to withstand, as well as get into trouble far away from anyone who could help us.”
“Also, when an ATV does roll over, its weight provides another hazard, since it can trap or even crush the rider. Loading extra weight onto an ATV makes it tip more easily and most riders don’t have a good feel for how rapidly this happens,” Dr. Checkel told the Edmonton Journal.