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Use Caution and Common Sense When Operating ATVs

Posted Nov. 1, 2004

I was raised in the construction business (dozers, graders, trucks, etc.), so I have been around heavy equipment all my life. If I heard my dad say it once, I heard him say it a thousand times: "Pay attention and be careful - it only takes one time." I would think to myself, "This guy worries too much." I was no different from any other young boy - I thought he was just being a stick-in-the-mud and didn't know how to have fun. A time or two (possibly three), I drove my motorcycle a little too fast, and when Dad did catch me, I was converted to a believer real fast. His way of converting didn't involve a lot of talk.

I have started my own family, and now the oldest of my three children has started venturing out and wanting to do more. I have come to understand what my father meant. His famous statement holds true not for just young folks, but for anyone operating a piece of equipment. It only takes one careless mistake, and it could be all over.

One particular piece of equipment I want to discuss is the all-terrain vehicle, or ATV. In the last few years, it seems an increasing number of people are getting injured or killed while operating an ATV. So, I contacted Noble Research Institute's safety manager for some statistics on ATV accidents.

  • In 2002, 44 children under the age of 14 died from injuries sustained in ATV accidents. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 account for 75 percent of these deaths./li>
  • In 2002, about 30,300 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries.
  • In 2001, 87 percent of ATV-related injuries suffered by children were a result of them riding an adult-size ATV.

Most injuries and fatalities are from the unit rolling over or hitting stationary objects. The statistics you just read dealt with just children. I could go on forever with statistics - the point is that ATVs need to be respected. I know of hunters breaking legs and arms, cowmen getting hurt chasing a cow and grown people recreating and having wrecks.

Let's think about this for a minute. Four-wheelers continue to get bigger and faster each year. Speeds can easily reach 45 to 50 miles per hour on these units. Think about getting in the family car and going for a fun ride in the pasture at 50 mph - you just wouldn't do it. Your neighbors would call and have you committed. You could drive your car 50 mph in the pasture and the chances of you rolling it are probably pretty slim. But go 50 mph on a 4-wheeler and hit a hole or turn too sharp and - bam - you've rolled it, and it is on top of you with a handle bar stuck in your lung, and you can't quite reach your cell phone for help. In my mind, a 4-wheeler is no different from a car - how many times have you heard of someone having a car wreck and getting thrown out? They probably would have lived, but the car rolled over them. A 4-wheeler is no different. When you get thrown from a 4-wheeler, chances are the 600-pound unit is not far behind, rolling full steam ahead, and it doesn't care if you're lying there or not. Speeding is not the only hazard associated with ATVs. An ATV simply handles differently than a car. When loaded improperly, it can come over on you going up an embankment. If you don't know how to shift your weight while turning, you may flip the unit.

ATVs can be great fun and also great tools when used properly - we use them daily here at the Noble Research Institute. Whether you own an ATV or not, chances are you or your children will be exposed to one sooner or later. I wanted to write this article to try to get everyone to think about riding safely because, as Dad always said, "It only takes one time." Until next time, pay attention and be careful when operating any piece of equipment.

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