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ATVs: safety required

Learn to use ATVs safely and practice common sense to avoid accidents, injury or even death.
TRR photo by Amanda Reed

September 4, 2013

UPPER DELAWARE RIVER REGION — ATV riding can be a risky sport. Within a period of six weeks this summer, two young people died in ATV accidents in our area. An eight-year-old boy from Long Island, NY lost his life in an ATV accident in the Town of Callicoon, NY on August 24, and in July, a 24-year-old Narrowsburg woman died as a result of an accident in Beach Lake, PA.

Herb Sawall, captain of the Cochecton ambulance corps and vice president of the Lake Huntington Fire Company, has seen too many ATV tragedies—two fatalities, not to mention the number of accidents that resulted in very severe injuries.

“Safety has to be the main concern, whether for children or adults,” he said last week. “Safety, safety, safety.” This includes every rider wearing a helmet, he added.

In addition, if you don’t know the terrain where you’re riding, you need to use extra caution, he warned.

In the most recent crash to which he was called, “The guy didn’t know there was a ditch there on the property, and when he saw the ditch, it was too late.

“If you’re driving in a field, you don’t know where the holes are. You might hit a woodchuck hole,” Sawall pointed out. “A little caution and safety carries a long way.”

Safety advice

Safety when driving ATVs is no less important than when driving a car. (In fact, a car offers far more protection.) Learning the rules and recommendations for safe operation is well worth the time and effort you invest.

To start with, every driver needs to master the machine’s mechanical devices and safety features. (It’s recommended that you read the owner’s manual.)

Unless specifically designed to carry two, ATVs are one-person vehicles; they are not meant to carry passengers.

In both New York State and Pennsylvania, safety helmets are required. (A face shield or goggles, protective clothing and footwear are strongly recommended.)

• Always ride at a safe and responsible speed.

• Always maintain a safe distance between riders; tailgating can lead to collisions and injuries.

• Know the area you are riding in. Be aware of its potential hazards.

• Don’t let young or inexperienced riders operate ATVs without training and supervision.

• Don’t drink alcohol or use other drugs when you ride.

• Never ride alone, and let someone know where you will be riding.

• Be informed of local weather conditions and dress and equip yourself appropriately.

• Carry a map of the trail or area you intend to travel.

• Know your abilities and don’t exceed them.