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Learn Safety Methods Before Operating ATVs
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- All-terrain vehicle accidents claim lives and cause hundreds of injuries each year, and young operators especially need to learn responsible habits to avoid deadly accidents.
Recreational use of ATVs, better known as three- and four-wheelers, increases as temperatures warm and days lengthen.
Dr. Dannie L. Reed, Choctaw County extension agent, said kids often see ATVs as toys. However, ATVs carry severe consequences if not carefully operated.
"Even though they've been popular for years, ATVs are still being misused," Reed said. "People are not wearing helmets and are riding double."
Although Mississippi has not passed a law requiring a helmet be worn, state law does prohibit ATVs on any type of state roads or highways. ATVs can only be ridden on private roads.
Mike Blankenship, safety director for Mississippi Farm Bureau, said many people don't understand the reasons behind this law, and if they looked at statistics, more precautions might be taken when operating an ATV.
"More than 80 percent of people killed on ATVs in Mississippi have been killed on public roads," Blankenship said. "Because ATVs were not made for pavement, they don't handle correctly on it."
Blankenship also said head injuries account for 85 percent of ATV deaths, but less than 10 percent of Mississippi's riders wear helmets.
"ATVs are not dangerous vehicles by themselves," Blankenship said. "An ATV is only as safe as its rider."
Reed offered several suggestions to improve ATV safety:
- Take general safety precautions such as always wearing a helmet, gloves and boots for protection.
- Avoid riding double. Passengers hamper the operator's ability to steer and control the ATV.
- Avoid riding on public roads or highways.
- Use lights and reflectors to make the ATV highly visible.
- Take a course in ATV safety methods. This helps new operators better understand the way the machines operate.
For more information on ATV safety and ATV safety courses, call the ATV Safety Institute at 1- 800-887-2887.