Be safe and prepared when riding ATVs

From the editorial: In the past six years, an average of 22 people each year have died in OHV crashes in Minnesota.

EP Echo Press Editorial

Tragedy struck the families of young ATV riders two weekends ago. Two 10-year-old riders and a 13-year-old rider died in off-highway vehicle or OHV crashes in Washington and Chisago counties.

This week, the Department of Natural Resources issued an alert to all OHV riders to make safety a top priority. The DNR cited sobering statistics: In the past six years, an average of 22 people each year have died in OHV crashes in Minnesota. In that same timeframe, the number of all-terrain vehicles registered in Minnesota has risen from 428,060 to 510,383, according to the DNR.

“We continue to see an abundance of new riders who, regardless of their age, don’t have much experience operating these big, powerful machines,” said Capt. Jon Paurus, safety training education manager for the DNR Enforcement Division. “Among the crashes we see, there’s one distinct commonality: The majority of people involved have not completed ATV safety training.”

State law requires anyone born after July 1, 1987, and who is 12 years or older, to complete safety certification before operating ATVs on public lands or waters, public road rights-of-way, or state or grant-in-aid trails. However, safety officials recommend all riders complete safety training, regardless of whether they’re required to.

Douglas County is fortunate to have a local organization that’s dedicated to ATV safety — the Runestone Off-Road ATV Riders , known as ROAR. It’s offering a safety training class this Saturday, May 6 at Alexandria Shooting Park Park, 6527 County Road 87, SE, Alexandria, starting at 9 a.m. It's for young people ages 10 to 15. Pre-registration can be made in person, or by calling Ollie’s Service, 111 Donna Ave, Alexandria, MN 56308, phone 320-763-4455. Ask for Sharon or Sonya.


Among the most common violations conservation officers have seen in recent years is youth riders not wearing helmets, the DNR said. All riders under the age of 18 must wear a DOT-approved helmet, unless they’re on private property. The DNR recommends all riders wear one, regardless of where they’re riding or whether it’s required.

Other ways riders can help ensure a safe ride include:

  • Ride only on designated trails. Stay to the right and travel at a safe speed.
  • Ride sober.
  • Remember that riders under age 15 are not allowed to operate Class 2 ATVs, except on private property. However, the DNR does not recommend operators under 15 operate Class 2 vehicles in any location.
  • Wear protective gear including goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves and a DOT-approved helmet when riding all types of OHVs.
  • If an OHV comes with factory-installed seatbelts, wear them.
  • Avoid riding on paved roads except to cross. Do it safely and ensure it’s permitted by law.
  • Actively supervise young riders. OHVs aren’t toys.
  • Complete a safety education course.

For more tips on safe riding, go to the DNR’s ATV safety webpage ( For a list of currently available ATV safety classes, check out the DNR’s ATV safety training requirements webpage ( Online classes are also available.

To learn more about ATV safety, call the ATV Safety Institute at 800-887-2887.

The bottom line: Be safe. Be prepared. Follow the laws. Don’t let a fun time off the highway end in tragedy.

The Alexandria Echo Press Editorial Board consists of Editor Al Edenloff and Publisher Diane Drew.
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