Ag Notes: ATV injuries, deaths increase

December 09, 2003|JERRY LITTLE

As the holiday season approaches, consider the risks and responsibilities before giving an all-terrain vehicle to a child or grandchild.

You'll want to buy an ATV that's the right size for the rider's age, physical development and maturity. Also, be sure the operator receives adequate instruction and supervision and has the proper protective equipment to ensure a safe, enjoyable riding experience.

An ATV can be a useful work tool and provide recreational experiences. However, it's not a toy. With increased popularity of ATVs has come an increase in the reported serious injuries and deaths, largely attributed to improper use.

For many years, Kentucky averaged seven ATV-related deaths annually. But, the number of deaths each year began steadily climbing in the mid-1990's.


Forty deaths were reported in 2002. We've had 35 deaths through late November this year, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

ATV size and power have dramatically increased with some machines capable of doing 60 to 70 mph. As a consequence, some medical authorities report higher numbers of high-impact injuries, traditionally associated with motorcycle injuries.

Be sure to buy an age-appropriate ATV. Manufacturer's recommendations are that children age 6 to 12 have engine sizes under 70 cubic centimeters; children ages 12 to 16, engine sizes under 90 cc; and youth age 16 and up, engine sizes over 90 cc.

An ATV operator should carefully read the owner's manual to become familiar with the shift lever, fuel supply valve and starter before using an ATV.

Anyone under age 16 should have direct adult supervision when riding an ATV.

The ATV Safety Institute offers a half-day, hands-on course on safety knowledge and practicing basic riding skills when you buy a new ATV. AN ASI representative will contact the buyer to offer the free course given by a licensed instructor.

Protective riding gear includes an approved helmet, goggles for eye protection and protective clothing of gloves, over-the-ankle boots, a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Choose a helmet approved by the Department of Transportation and American National Standards Institute or one certified by the Snell Memorial Foundation. A helmet could have saved the lives of about 25 percent of people who died from head injuries in ATV-related accidents.

Operate an ATV responsibly. Speeding, showing off or doing stunts greatly increases the risk of serious injury or death.

A passenger's presence can seriously impair your ability to shift weight to steer and control this powerful machine. Most ATVs are designed for one operator, so only carry a passenger if the owner's manual indicates that the machine is manufactured for more than one person.

Adding attachments affects stability, operation and braking.

An ATV is designed for off-road use only. Kentucky law prohibits operating an ATV on a public highway or road, except to cross a two-lane public highway or when engaged in agricultural or other commercial uses. An ATV operator must have a valid driver's license for these exceptions.

Dear Bubba

An old man lived alone in Idaho. He wanted to spade his potato garden, but it was very hard work. His only son, Bubba, who used to help him was in prison. The old man wrote the following letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Bubba,

I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my potato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here, all my troubles would be over. I know you would dig the plot for me.

Love, Dad

A few days later he received this letter back from his son:

Dear Dad,

For heaven's sake, Dad, don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the BODIES.

Love, Bubba

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police showed up and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son as follows:

Dear Dad,

Go ahead and plant the potatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Bubba

Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture/natural resources.

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