Tennessee Off-Highway Vehicle User Survey

The characteristics of OHV users in Tennessee, types of OHV use and trip characteristics, and the perceptions and preferences of OHV users were studied.

by University of Tennessee

Along with the growing popularity of off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation in the United States, there has been an inevitable increase in demand for areas which provide for such recreation. This growth has occurred for a number of reasons which include but are not limited to: an ever-increasing population, increases in amounts of free time and expendable income, and advances in OHV technology. Meanwhile, according to a report prepared for the Recreation Roundtable in Washington, D.C. entitled Outdoor Recreation in America 1998, the nationwide level of satisfaction with services and areas provided for this type of recreation is relatively low

In Tennessee, OHV recreation surfaced as a high priority issue during the statewide recreation planning process in 1995. As a result, Governor Sundquist appointed a committee of state, federal, and public representatives to develop recommendations for a statewide OHV recreation plan. The University of Tennessee was commissioned in 1999 to conduct a survey in as a part of this committee's information gathering process. The purpose of this study was to articulate the nature and extent of OHV recreation in Tennessee and its associated economic impacts. Furthermore, the study was to characterize and describe OHV users in Tennessee, their perception of the current situation, and their level of support for aspects of a potential future OHV recreation program.

The results of the survey are presented in this report. They are organized into four sub-sections to facilitate the reader's ability to find pertinent information quickly. The first section seeks to describe the people who participate in OHV recreation in Tennessee. The second section focuses on characteristics of OHV recreation trips. The third section shows the perceptions of or level of satisfaction with the current status of OHV recreation in Tennessee. The fourth section deals with the preferences of OHV users and their level of support for different aspects of a potential future state OHV program. These four sections are followed by a set of appendices which include examples of the mail and telephone surveys, as well as a catalog of comments from survey respondents.

For presentation in this report, survey respondents themselves are divided into four groups according to the types of machines owned and used during OHV recreation. This was done to highlight the subtle differences among OHV user sub-groups. The first group consisted of those who own an allterrain vehicle (ATV) only, and the second group was made up of those who own a four wheel drive truck (4wd) only. The third group included those respondents who own either an off highway motorcycle only or both an off highway motorcycle and any other type of off highway machine. The fourth and final group includes those respondents who own both an ATV and a 4wd.

Research methods

Information gathering techniques for this project included a combination of on-site, telephone, and mail surveys. These surveys were developed and conducted by the Human Dimensions Research Lab of the Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Three subpopulations were identified and surveyed, including OHV special event participants, Tennessee sportsmen, and the general population.

Event riders consisted of participants in the Dixie Run, Appalachian Jeep Jamboree, Gateway to the Cumberlands, and VSTA OHV events. These people filled out a short on-site survey and were asked if they could be contacted in the future. Participants in those events who live in Tennessee and who agreed to be contacted were sent a mail survey. Of those 340 participants, 169 completed and returned mail surveys for a response rate of 49.7%.

Tennessee sportsmen interviewed during the Fall 2000 TWRA hunting and fishing survey were asked if they owned or used an OHV for recreational purposes. Those who responded "yes" were then asked if they could be contacted with a follow-up mail survey. A random sample of those sportsmen who agreed to be contacted was selected to receive an OHV mail survey. Of those 587sportsmen, 180 completed and returned mail surveys resulting in a response rate of 31.7%.

For the general population survey, a randomly generated sample of Tennessee telephone numbers was purchased from Survey Sampling, Inc. in Fairfield, Connecticut. Upon contact, the person answering the telephone was asked if anyone in the household had driven or ridden an OHV in the past 12 months. If the response to this question was affirmative, then the person administering the survey asked to speak with the primary OHV user in that household. Using Random Digit Dial (RDD), 721 households were contacted, and 411 interviews were completed by telephone for an RDD Telephone response rate of 57.0%. A follow-up mail survey was then sent to 158 OHV users identified in the RDD Telephone survey. Of those follow-up surveys, 60 were completed and returned for a 38.0% response rate.

Summary of results section

A: Characteristics of OHV users in Tennessee

  • The majority of respondents do not use their OHVs for work purposes.
  • Those who use their OHVs for work do so about half of the time.
  • Those who own an off-highway motorcycle (OHM) spend most of their time doing recreational trail riding and are more likely than others to participate in competitions and organized events.
  • Those who own ATVs or 4WDs are more likely than OHM owners to use their vehicle for work or hunting and fishing.
  • There are currently more than 500,000 estimated total OHVs in Tennessee. The majority of these are 4WDs that are already registered for highway use.
  • It is estimated that there are more than 250,000 households with an OHV user and more than 500,000 total OHV users in Tennessee.
  • The number of active OHV recreational users who used an OHV for recreation off-road in the past 12 months is estimated at more than 250,000 (representing over 150,000 households).
  • OHV users in Tennessee are primarily Caucasian males who are middle-aged and married. They are also well educated and from strong middle-class income ranges.
  • OHV users in Tennessee are likely to be professional workers, skilled trades persons, or managers or executives.
  • On average, OHV users in Tennessee rate their own skill level as being more advanced than intermediate.
  • The vast majority of OHV users in Tennessee have not completed any kind of safety education program. Of those who have completed a safety education program, most did so in Tennessee.
  • Most OHV users in Tennessee did not incur an OHV related injury in the 12 months prior to the survey, although motorcycle users were more likely to have had an OHV injury. Injuries reported included: bumps, bruises, cuts, scrapes, and various broken bones.
  • The most frequently reported motivations for OHV driving included: enjoying natural scenery, being with other people with similar interests, and getting away from crowds of people.

Section B: Types of OHV use and trip characteristics

  • The most popular reason respondents gave for using their most frequently visited area most often was that the area is Aeasy to get to.
  • Among Tennessee OHV participants, more time is spent riding in Tennessee than in other states.
  • OHV users in Tennessee ride more often on private land than public land.
  • Most OHV trips in Tennessee are less than a day in duration. Only about 20% of respondents said that their typical OHV trip lasts more than one day.
  • Most people have never paid a fee to ride on private land. A number of users ride OHVs on their own land.
  • While OHV users often ride with friends and family, they also ride alone.
  • On average, respondents reported a group size of about 4 or 5 people and 3 or 4 vehicles when on OHV trips.

Section C: Perceptions of OHV users in Tennessee

  • Generally more OHV users were dissatisfied than satisfied with OHV opportunities and management in Tennessee, particularly those with motorcycles.
  • Most respondents are satisfied with their OHV experiences in Tennessee.
  • Data suggest that OHV users believe that litter is a minor to moderate problem in the areas they most frequently use for OHV recreation in Tennessee.
  • The following are seen as minor problems: poor communication of rules and regulations, OHVs traveling too fast, lack of suitable campsites, and OHV impacts on soil and vegetation.

Section D: Preferences of OHV users in Tennessee

  • A slight majority of respondents said that there is no other area (besides the one they use most frequently) where they would prefer to ride more often.
  • Of those who said there was an area they would prefer to ride more often, the most frequently reported reasons for preferring these areas included: close proximity, good hunting, scenic beauty, and preferred terrain.
  • Most respondents tend to seek different areas to ride as opposed to visiting the same area.
  • Motorcycle riders prefer rugged, steep, rocky trials while other OHV users prefer roads/trails with few obstacles.
  • OHV riders almost equally prefer marked roads/trails to those that are unmarked except for motorcycle users who tend to prefer marked roads/trails.
  • Many OHV users in Tennessee prefer to participate in sightseeing, hunting, fishing, and camping while on OHV trips.
  • The majority of survey respondents support a program to develop and maintain OHV areas including restrooms, parking lots, campsites (including primitive camping on long distance trails), and OHV play areas. There is a high preference for signs that show trail length and difficulty and maps of areas and access points.
  • A majority of respondents support a one-time safety certification.
  • While most OHV users oppose an annual registration fee for OHVs, they favor using license fees for the management of OHV programs.
  • OHV users overwhelmingly support requiring helmets for children and a majority of respondents support requiring helmets for adults.
  • Event riders are more willing than sportsmen to pay fees for both maintenance and management of OHV areas and for safety and education programs.
  • More than half of the general population of OHV users in Tennessee is willing to pay either $5.00 or $7.50 for a daily riding fee and up to $75 for a yearly riding fee if proceeds go to maintenance and management of OHV areas.
  • Almost half of the general population of OHV users in Tennessee is willing to pay up to $50 for an annual license if proceeds go to safety and education programs.

February 25, 2002
Human Dimensions Research Lab
Department of Forestry, Wildlife, & Fisheries
University of Tennessee
P.O. Box 1071
Knoxville, TN 37901-1071

Attached document published February 2002

About the Author

The University of Tennessee System is comprised of campuses at Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Martin; the Health Science Center at Memphis; the Space Institute at Tullahoma; and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service. The UT System has a presence in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Through the combined force of education, research and outreach, the University serves students, business and industry, schools, governments, organizations and citizens statewide.

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