A tragic accident occurred in a rural Georgia community in September 2003 that resulted in the loss of five
children. A collision between an ATV and an automobile caused the death of the children and serious injury to the sixth child and the driver of the automobile. It left a big hole in the community and in the lives of all who knew and loved the victims. It left a deep loss and pain for the survivors of the accident.
ATV related accidents run the gamut from collisions with vehicles to collisions with trees and ditches. Many
accidents occur because of driving too fast or turning incorrectly. Below are some statistics from the National Children’s Center for Rural Agricultural and Health Safety website.
From 1995 to 1999, the estimated number of ATV-related emergencies for U.S. youth under age 16 grew annually from 19,300 to 28,700, a 33% increase. From 1982-1999, 1,310 U.S. youth under age 16 died while riding an ATV. Youth under 16 represented 35% of all ATV-related deaths. ATV operators under 16 are nearly four times more likely than ATV operators over 16 to experience an injury requiring emergency room treatment.
An ATV can be hazardous to operate, but with proper instruction and safety measures, it can be an enjoyable form of outdoor recreation and a useful tool on the farm. ATVs handle differently from other modes of transportation, such as cars and motorcycles. Here are a few of the basics from the ATV Safety Institute. These are rules for both adults and children.
• Do not ride an ATV that is not recommended for your age group. The minimum age and ATV size is 70 cubic centimeters (engine size) for six years and under. For ages 12 and older the ATV size is 70-90 cc. For persons 16 years and older the ATV size is over 90 cc.
• Be prepared. You want to make sure your machine is ready and that you have appropriate training to operate the ATV. Take an appropriate training course.
• Wear protective gear. This includes an approved motorcycle helmet, eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.
• Do a pre-ride inspection. This can prevent an injury and can keep you from being stranded. It also ensures that you will get longer enjoyment out of your ATV. Off-road riding is hard on an ATV, so it is especially important that you do routine maintenance. You should check the tires and wheels, the controls, the lights and switches and the chain/driveshaft and chassis. Also be sure you have an adequate tool kit in case you encounter any mechanical problems out in the field.
• ATVs are designed to be used OFF-ROAD ONLY. A leading cause of accidents and fatalities to ATV riders is riding on or crossing a road illegally or improperly. On off-road riding, be sure you know your terrain and that you know the proper skills for basics such as turning and riding on hills. Remember, ATVs handle differently from other vehicles.
• Do not carry passengers. It is tempting to let your friends or your child ride on the vehicle with you. Don’t. ATVs are designed for single riders. Additional people put you at risk for serious injury or death.
• ATV in groups. Ride in a group of two or more other ATV drivers. If this isn’t possible, always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
• Do not mix alcohol or other drugs with ATV riding. Off-road riding on an ATV requires that you be alert and able to use your driving skills at their maximum. Consumer Products Safety Commission studies show that 30 percent of all ATV riders killed in ATV accidents had been drinking. Fourteen percent of all reported accidents with injuries indicated alcohol consumption by the operator.
• Do not ride after dark or in inclement weather. While ATVs are equipped with lighting, you increase your risk of injury when riding under conditions where visibility is marginal.
• Don’t show off! Keep speed under control. Don’t do stunts. Speeding and stunts are common among young operators, especially when peer pressure enters into the equation. Operating at excessive speeds and doing stunts greatly increases the risk that you will lose control of the ATV with potentially devastating results.
• ATVs are workhorses on many farms and ranches. They are used frequently by people who enjoy hunting and fishing. They can be enjoyable recreational vehicles that enable you to explore more territory than walking might allow. However, in all of these cases, proper use is critical.
• The ATV Safety Institute has excellent videos and print publications.Visit their web site at www.atvsafety.org for ordering information and to go to the kid’s section for interactive games on ATV Safety. You may also contact them at (949) 727-3727 in Irvine, CA. The ATV Safety Institute is a division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America.