Editorial - A message to ATV driversAs the weather heats up, so does the season for riding all terrain vehicles (ATVs). But it isn’t all fun in the sun. As with any vehicle, drivers assume a big responsibility when they turn the key. From 2007 to 2011, 82 Minnesotans were killed in ATV accidents. More than one-half of the fatal accidents involved an ATV rolling over, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
As the weather heats up, so does the season for riding all terrain vehicles (ATVs).
But it isn’t all fun in the sun. As with any vehicle, drivers assume a big responsibility when they turn the key.
From 2007 to 2011, 82 Minnesotans were killed in ATV accidents. More than one-half of the fatal accidents involved an ATV rolling over, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Four in 10 fatalities involved alcohol. The ages of those fatally injured ranged from 7 to 94 years old.
Noting the young lives that were lost, Leland Owens, the DNR’s recreational vehicle coordinator, pointed out, “ATVs are not babysitters. If you allow a youth to operate an ATV, make sure the person is trained, fits the ATV, and is constantly supervised by an adult.”
So far this year, there have been three ATV-related deaths in Minnesota. One bad ATV crash has already happened in our region. It took place Saturday in the Sauk Lake area in Todd County. A woman from Sauk Centre was driving a side-by-side ATV with a passenger when she lost control. The ATV rolled in a field and landed on top of the passenger, causing severe head injuries, according to the Todd County Sheriff’s Office. Alcohol was a factor in the crash and criminal charges are pending, according to the TCSO.
Owens said the public’s perception is that most ATV fatalities and accidents involve youths, but he added that’s really not the case. Recent DNR statistics show a decline in youth-involved incidents, largely due to safety training requirements for those ages 15 and younger. “It’s the adults – those who have not completed DNR ATV safety training – who are most at risk,” Owens said.
Here’s a statistic to remember: More than 95 percent of those who died had not taken ATV safety training.
State ATV laws require youth ages 12-15 and anyone born after July 1, 1987, who is 16 or older, to take ATV safety training before operating on public lands. For more information on ATV regulations, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ohv/index.html. Also, keep checking the newspaper for information on when classes will be available locally.
Owens encourages people to be defensive drivers while operating an ATV, since more than 65 percent of fatal ATV accidents took place in the road right-of-way. Another 25 percent of ATV fatalities happened on private property.
Owens urges caution to ditch riders as well. Ditches can be full of hazards such as telephone and power poles, guy wires, electrical and phone boxes, survey markers, culverts and mailboxes. Ditches along state and county roads are closed to ATVs in the agricultural zone from April 1 to August 1.
Owens suggests trailering machines to a designated ATV trail. “When riding, stay on designated trails,” he said, “Don’t trespass on private property where you don’t have permission to ride. And slow down, since ATVs become less stable at increased speeds.”
This spring and summer, have fun on your ATV but don’t become a statistic. Follow the rules, complete the safety training and drive defensively. Stay alive.