Think that a four-wheel, all-terrain vehicle provides more protection in a nasty spill than a two-wheel dirt bike? Think again.

New research by a Johns Hopkins University team found that victims of  ATV crashes were 50 percent more likely to die of their injuries than people in off-road motorcycle crashes.

The researchers also found that ATV accident victims were 55 percent more likely to wind up in a hospital’s intensive-care unit, and 42 percent more likely to be placed on a ventilator than dirt bike victims.

To carry out the study, the study’s authors compared data from the National Trauma Data Bank on nearly 60,000 patients suffering injuries from ATV and off-road motorcycle accidents between 2002 and 2006. The research was presented last week at the American College of Surgeons’ 2010 Clinical Congress in Washington, D.C.

Researchers said it’s unclear why ATV crashes are more deadly. Statistics show that 60 percent of injured motorcyclists were wearing helmets compared to 30 percent of injured ATV riders, but researchers said helmet use doesn’t fully account for the differences. Even when riders of both types of vehicles were wearing helmets, ATV riders had more serious injuries, Cassandra Villegas, one of the researchers, said in a news release.

Other factors, the authors said, include the relatively heavy weight of an ATV, which could crush a fallen rider. ATVs typically weigh more than 600 pounds, and manufacturers have successfully resisted a stability standard that could reduce the number of rollovers, Fair Warning reported in March.

The ATV Safety Institute of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, an off-road vehicle industry group, told FairWarning that it hadn’t reviewed the study and therefore couldn’t comment directly on its findings.

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