Research Highlight: Effectiveness of Crash Protection Devices to Decrease Injuries and Fatalities in All-Terrain Vehicle Incidents

An all-terrain vehicle with a roll bar attached to the back

by Emily Felt

This article summarizes the findings of the article “Evaluation of Crush Protection Devices for Agricultural All-Terrain Vehicles”, by Farzaneh Khorsandi, Paul D. Ayers and Eric J. Fong, published in Biosystems Engineering, 185 (2019)


All-terrain vehicles (ATV) are widely used in agricultural work to apply fertilizers and chemicals, inspect livestock and crops, supervise and transport workers, and carry and tow equipment. Unfortunately, they also account for a significant percentage of work-related accidents.

There are an estimated 11 million ATVs  in the United States, used either recreationally (79%) or in workplace settings (21%) . Because of the design and instability of ATVs, rollovers are dangerous and often fatal. ATV accidents are the second most common source of injury in agricultural work. Over half of fatalities are caused by asphyxia, when the vehicle is overturned and the operator is pinned to the ground.

Three out of five occupational ATV fatalities occur in the agriculture sector.

New Study Findings

Dr. Farzaneh Khorsandi, Assistant Safety and Health Engineering Specialist in Cooperative Extension and WCAHS researcher, recently published new findings on evaluation and safety criteria for crush protection devices (CPD). These devices, commonly known as roll bars, are structures that extend above the vehicle and provide a crush protection zone between the upside-down vehicle and the ground, whereby the operator can extract themselves after an accident.

Dr. Khorsandi and her colleagues reviewed CPD evaluation studies, protection standards, and criteria for safety design. They also developed a model to calculate the crash protection zone for three different CPDs on 13 ATV models by measuring the shape and volume of the crash protection zone and the change in height and center of gravity of the ATV.

Results showed that the installation of a CPD increases the crash protection zone in the event of a rollover accident, thereby increasing the clearance for the operator to crawl out from under an overturned vehicle. They also found that the characteristics of certain types of CPDs, for example those with a larger horizontal distance between the seat and the CPD, could decrease the risk of being hit by the CPD during a rollover incident while the operator tries to dismount the vehicle.

Potential Solutions for ATV Crash Prevention

Although there are many roll bars on the market in the U.S., there is no official standard for their performance. There is also no occupational safety directive that requires the use of a CPD or other device to protect agricultural workers in the event of an ATV accident. Solutions such as requiring CPDs on ATVs, developing safety standards, and conducting rollover tests to evaluate CPD effectiveness are needed to prevent agricultural ATV accidents.


Dr. Khorsandi is an active member of WCAHS and has received several seed grants to pursue her ATV safety research. 

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