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Memorial Day weekend. While the upcoming 3-day holiday weekend likely evokes thoughts of warm-weather fun, it’s also notorious for a major safety concern. On average, emergency rooms treat more than 4,000 people each year for All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) related injuries. Memorial Day weekend is among the deadliest and most-injury prone holidays when it comes to reported ATV incidents.
If this weekend follows the same path as years past, it will be a continuation of a spring filled with ATV-related incidents. In April alone, media reported 40 adult deaths and 12 deaths of children younger than 16 years of age. These deaths happened all over the country, from Maine to Missouri, from Michigan to California.
An adult ATV is much like a car. It requires skills and training to drive. Children under 16 should not drive an adult ATV, which can travel at more than 60 miles per hour and weigh up to 850 pounds. Children lack the developmental skills to safely drive these machines. ATVs are not toys. They are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles.
Many deaths are the result of people riding as passengers on single-person ATVs. Though a single-rider ATV seat is long, it is not designed for two (or more) people. Single-rider ATVs are not equipped with handholds or footrests for passengers. Plus, the ATV riding experience is dependent on a driver’s body movement. If a passenger gets in the way or shifts his weight improperly, the driver might not be able to safely control the ATV. It can then roll over or crash.
Deaths, too, happen when kids ride on a friend’s ATV. If you own an ATV, your child may have taken training classes and be skilled, but is his friend trained and skilled, too?
As of April 2009, manufacturers must offer consumers free hands on training through their dealers. Consumers who take the training get $100 worth of incentives, including $50 cash. That leaves it up to you, the ATV buyer, to take the time to get yourself and your children trained on riding ATVs safely. Manufacturers tell CPSC that few ATV purchasers take them up on this training .
So, if you recently purchased an ATV, make sure you and your family have received this free hands-on training. If your ATV is older, be sure that everyone who rides your ATV has been taught how to ride safely. ATV training courses are offered nationwide, often for free. You can find one in your area at the ATV Safety Institute website.
Read more on ATV safety, including tips on wearing helmets and other safety gear, at http://www.atvsafety.gov/.