Safety a Priority
Auburn, Sept. 7---All-terrain
vehicles (ATVs) have become popular for work and recreation. They
are prevalent in agriculture, business, industry and government and
promise new adventures to young and old riders alike.
Unfortunately, more than
90,000 serious injuries and 120 deaths are reported annually from
ATV use. Most of these injuries and deaths are attributed to
improper use of ATVs and nearly 50 percent of the injuries and
fatalities are children under 16.
An ATV is not a
toy and children should not be permitted to operate one without
specialized training, says Extension 4-H Program Specialist Dr. Tony
training course is recommended for all ATV operators. Inexperienced
riders in their first month of using an ATV have 13 times the
average risk of injury. Beginning riders should receive a training
course from a qualified instructor. Basic maneuvers taught in
training courses should be practiced regularly on a safe
terrain." Cook says.
Adequate physical size
and strength, emotional maturity, ability to assess a situation
and take appropriate action, and good motor skills are important
factors for youth operating motorized vehicles.
When children are
allowed to operate an ATV, it should be the appropriate size. ATVs
with an engine size of 77 cc to 90 cc should be operated by people
at least 12 years old. ATVs with engines greater than 90 cc should
only be operated by people 16 and older.
ATVs are designed
for off-road use only. They should never be operated on
paved surfaces or public
roads. Almost 10 percent of the injuries and more than 25 percent of
the deaths from ATVs have occurred while someone was operating an
ATV on paved roads. Alcohol or drugs should never be used before or
during the operation of ATVs.
Cook says protective
gear is important for safe ATV operation. A safety helmet that meets
federal standards is the best protection an operator can have.
Helmets could have saved the lives of about 25 percent of those who
died from head injuries in ATV-related accidents. Helmets should fit
snugly and be securely fastened. Riders should also wear a face
shield or goggles free from scratches and made of polycarbonate.
Sunglasses do not provide adequate protection.
Goggles should be
securely fastened and well-ventilated to prevent fogging. High- top
boots with low heels, gloves, sturdy jackets and pants also are
standard attire. While protection from the cold is important, do not
wear scarves or loose clothing because of potential entanglement
with moving parts.
Cook reminds riders that
ATVs are designed for one operator and no passengers. Adding an
extra passenger can seriously impair a rider's ability to shift
weight, which helps steer and control the ATV.
Loss of vehicle control
causes most accidents, says Cook. Most accidents occur when the
operator encounters a change of terrain or swerves to avoid an
obstacle such as a rock or ditch. It causes an abrupt change of
balance and loss of control.
Riders shouldn't show
off and should keep their speed under control. Speeding and stunts
(wheelies, jumps, etc.) are common among young operators, especially
when peer pressure is involved. Stunt riding increases a rider's
risk of losing control and having a serious accident.
SOURCE: Dr. Tony Cook,
4-H Program Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, (334)