As parents, we worry when our kids go out to play—it’s only natural and we try to encourage them even as we find ways for them to be safer.
What if there were a way to make them 95 percent safer, at least in one outdoor activity? ATV safety is one of the focal points of this week’s Agricultural Safety Awareness Program, running March 1-7.
The ATV is a workhorse around the farm and for many farm kids, a recreational activity. However, it is the cause of an average of 15 deaths per year in Louisiana alone, most of them to riders under 18.
“We’ve found that in 95 percent of the fatal accidents involving a child on an ATV, the child was riding one that was too large for them,” said Wendell Miley, safety director for the Louisiana Farm Bureau. “Whether it’s riding a parent’s ATV or just buying one that is too big, it’s one of the biggest risk factors out there. ATV manufacturers all have guidelines on matching these vehicles to the size of the rider and they should be followed.”
This year’s ASAP theme is “Ride Like a Pro Whenever You Go,” focusing on helmet use while riding ATV’s. Miley said helmets decrease the risk of fatality in ATV accidents by 50 percent and the chance of a head injury by 80 percent.
“Helmets can cost as little as $50, which is cheap compared to the cost of an ATV and even more inexpensive when you are looking at medical bills or the cost of a human life,” he said. “The one thing to look for is to make sure it is DOT-approved. Some helmets have additional approval ratings, but always make sure it has the DOT sticker.”
In addition, 60 percent of ATV-related child deaths occur on a road, something that is prohibited by law.
“They’re off-road vehicles by design,” Miley said. “They sit low and they have very little protection against cars or bigger vehicles. If you have an ATV, it’s a good idea to have a designated area on the farm for kids to ride.”
Miley has been tracking ATV-related accidents for more than a decade and he said multiple riders greatly increase the risk of both fatalities and accidents in general.
“The large seat on an ATV is designed for a single rider to shift his weight on uneven terrain, not for passengers,” Miley said. “We had an incident in Louisiana with and ATV accident involving five people. I know it’s a convenient and fun way to ride, but it’s just too dangerous as it was never designed for more than one person.”
To find out more, you can visit the National Ag Safety Database at http://nasdonline.org to check on ATV safety including inspection, sizes and helmets.