All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) can be heard revving their engines over the Kentucky landscape more frequently as summertime settles into the region – and that means riders need to take a fresh look at safety before operating their vehicles.
“Whether we use ATVs to get work done around the farm or to simply enjoy some trail riding,” said Randy Chrisman, Chair of Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Safety & Rural Health Advisory Committee, “we have to remember that they are also powerful machines that can cause serious injuries when not used properly.”
According to statistics from ATVSafety.gov, a service of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Kentucky currently ranks as the second-highest state in the nation for annual ATV fatalities. During the CPSC’s most recent reporting period, 2007-2010, Kentucky had 122 ATV-related deaths. Only West Virginia (148) reported more ATV-related fatalities during this timeframe.
In 2010, the CPSC data went on to show, ATV accidents across the country were responsible for 317 fatalities and an estimated 115,000 injuries – and more than 28,000 of those injuries involving children under the age of 16.
“It is essential that we teach our children the proper ways to handle equipment and drive vehicles like an ATV,” said Chrisman. “Statistics tell us that their very lives could depend on that knowledge.”
Awareness, attention to age-appropriate use, and education are essential to decreasing the number of injuries and fatalities linked to ATV accidents. Kentucky Farm Bureau offers the following tips to help make ATV riding safer this summer:
Get training. Before heading for the trail to off-road adventure, riders should go through a driver education course specifically designed for ATVs. Proper instruction will inform riders of the correct ways to control an ATV on the various types of terrain that might be encountered. A formally trained driver has a lower risk of accidents and injuries than one with no formal instruction.
Get a helmet. Protective equipment, especially a helmet, is essential to reducing the likelihood of an ATV accident leading to head injury. It is also advisable to wear goggles, gloves, pants, boots that sit over the ankle, and long-sleeved shirts to avoid the cuts and scrapes that are more likely to occur if brushing up against trees, shrubs, rocks and other debris with exposed skin.
Get the right size ATV. Children under the age of 16 should never drive an adult-sized ATV. Nearly one-third of all ATV-related deaths and emergency room visits involve children under the age of 16 who were driving or riding on an adult-sized ATV. The National Ag Safety Database offers information – and additional safety tips – on the recommended ages for youth operation of ATVs and their various sizes and power.
Don’t ride with a passenger. Most ATVs are designed with only one rider in mind – the driver. Adding a passenger to the vehicle is not only a distraction, but it also interferes with the driver’s ability to move in tandem with the machine while navigating rough terrain. The inability to freely shift one’s weight from side to side limits the driver’s ability to maintain safe control of the ATV and could lead to an accident.
Don’t ride on the road. ATVs are specifically designed for off-road use and are actually difficult to control on paved surfaces. Additionally, driving on roads exposes ATV riders to the deadly risk of collisions with cars and trucks. Many ATV fatalities occur because a rider was traveling on a paved road.
Don’t drive under the influence. Recreational use of ATVs can make for an enjoyable afternoon of adventure, but mixing those experiences with alcohol or drugs only impairs a driver’s judgment and reaction times.
Know the state laws. Each state’s restrictions on ATV use vary slightly. Kentucky’s riders should be licensed and familiar with the state restrictions on operation of ATVs.
Situational awareness, formal training and adherence to general safety tips can go a long way in keeping Kentucky’s ATV riders safe, and fatalities down, in 2012.
“We encourage everyone to take safety seriously when riding an ATV,” concluded Chrisman. “No one looks for an accident when heading to that next off-road adventure, but we want to encourage riders to get in the habit of finding more ways to avoid them.”