D. HUSAR: Fatality sends strong message about importance of ATV safety

Posted: Sep. 20, 2012 8:48 pm Updated: Dec. 14, 2012 9:15 am

Any accident can provide a wake-up call to people far removed from the scene.

A fatal accident sends an even stronger message.

An ATV accident last week east of Siloam Springs State Park claimed the life of a Quincy woman and provided yet another reminder to think about safety when operating the popular vehicles.

National statistics reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission online at show 317 reported deaths and an estimated 115,00 emergency room-treated injuries related to ATVs in 2010. Fifty-five of the deaths and 28,300 of the injuries -- or 17 percent of total reported deaths and 25 percent of estimated injuries that year -- happened to children under age 16.

The three- and four-wheel vehicles of varying sizes are especially popular on the farm, and staying safe on the farm is important not only during this week, National Farm Safety and Health Week, but all year long.

Adams County Farm Bureau Manager Shawn Valter said ATVs have become an integral part of the farm landscape.

"We use them like we used to use horses, to check on fences, livestock," Valter said. "Something Farm Bureau always stresses is safety working around equipment."

What many people don't realize, though, is that ATVs, like most farm equipment, have gotten bigger over time.

"What used to be a three-wheeler is now a four-wheeler utility vehicle that people use in and around the farm," Valter said.

The vehicles are just as popular for recreation, and Valter said that's where safety may be overlooked.

"That's where people blur the line or forget about safety altogether," he said. "When you're using them in a recreational manner, not during normal work hours on weekends and evenings, maybe safety is not on the top of your mind."

Valter stressed the importance of wearing a helmet when riding an ATV.

Wearing a helmet, one made for motorcycle or motorized sports and certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation and/or the Snell Memorial Foundation, along with over-the-ankle boots, goggles, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt can protect against cuts and other injuries, the commission said on its website.

The commission offered other safety tips, including:

º Take a hands-on-safety training course. Drivers with formal training have a lower injury risk than drivers with no formal training.

º Do not drive ATVs with a passenger or ride as a passenger. Most ATVs are designed to carry only one person and for interactive riding -- where drivers must shift their weight freely in all directions depending on the situation and terrain.

º Don't drive ATVs on paved roads. Because of how they're made, ATVs are difficult to control on paved roads, and collisions with cars and other vehicles can be deadly.

º Don't permit children to drive or ride adult ATVs. Children under 16 on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding youth ATVs.

º Don't drive ATVs while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drugs impair reaction time and judgement.

This week highlights "Agricultural Safety and Health: A Family Affair," and how families can have fun with ATVs on and off the farm.

"Just remember to be safe at the same time," Valter said.