ATV Deaths Bring Awareness To Safety Issues

The recent deaths of two children highlight the need for more public awareness about ATV safety.

Eleven-year-olds Dustin Walls and Joshua Sayre were killed this week when they drove their four wheeler into the path of an oncoming pickup truck. It happened on a rural road near Hurley.

ATV safety guidelines are designed to help prevent such tragedies. Safety rule number one: Full size ATVs are for adults only.

"No one under the age of 16 years old should be riding these ATVs 90-cc or larger," said ATV dealer Gina Nadeau.

ATV buyers receive an owners manual outlining safety, plus the vehicles are covered with multiple safety warning stickers. Safety videos are also a part of each purchase.

"Take the videos home. Watch these videos to make sure that each individual that would ride the vehicle understands ATV safety," she said.

The increased attention to safety appears to be showing results. Nationwide, although ATV sales were up, there was a six percent decrease in accidents from 2001 to 2003

"It's definitely not a toy. It's as dangerous or more dangerous than an automobile because you don't have the surroundings of an automobile," said Nadeau.

The ATV safety institute publishes a list of "golden rules" for ATV safety. Among the top rules: Always wear a helmet and never operate an ATV on public roads. Plus, the safety institute recommends that all drivers attend an ATV safety training course.

"Any child under the age of 12 needs to be directly supervised on any recreational vehicle," said Harrison County sheriff's deputy Tony Sauro.

Sauro supervises when his son rides an ATV. The deputy says safety and supervision are the keys to fun on a four wheeler.

"When my child wanted a four wheeler, I supervised. Got the right equipment. Made it fun, but also made it safe. Safe behaviors can save lives," said Sauro.

The industry reports more than 90 percent of ATV fatalities are the result of failing to follow the safety warnings.