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October 29, 2007 - Mind your manners on your ATV

In the past when I have discussed practicing safety on ATV’s, all-terrain vehicles, and particularly when it comes to the safety of young people, I tend to hear from some of you saying “My kids are responsible, they can handle an all-terrain vehicle whether they are six, nine or ten years old.”

Well, I still don’t agree with that and I will share numbers that support my belief. The American Academy of Pediatrics said recently children under the age of 16 riding these machines is a recipe for tragedy. According to a report by an injury prevention specialist at West Virginia University, the death rate for children on off-road vehicles increased 24% over the past five years.

But now there is another problem and that is protecting the environment. There are more than nine-million off-road vehicles, that’s ATV’s, dirt bikes, snowmobiles and other vehicles in the country today and at least one-million new ones are sold every year. Thousands of Americans responsibly use off-road vehicles for work, to explore the back country and to enjoy nature’s beauty.

But here is the problem...there is a growing number of riders who are ruining things for everyone by riding off established trails, destroying our public lands and burdening already stressed law enforcement officials. As a matter of fact, the problem is so bad now that the Forest Service called off-road vehicles one of the top four threats to America’s forests.

Let me share another number. While off-roaders account for 15% of all visits to U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands, reckless riding represents 50% of all law enforcement incidents, more than thefts, assaults and arson, according to the Bureau.

So it comes back to minding our manners. It is unfortunate that a few irresponsible people are going to spoil it for the majority of people who ride ATV’s responsibly; who use all-terrain vehicles for work because they are an important tool, particularly on farms, ranches and construction sites.

But again I emphasize, they are not a toy, particularly for small children. If you think differently, take a look again at the death rate increase noted earlier in this column and I strongly suggest you contact Farm Safety 4 Just Kids and request their booklet on safe use of ATV’s.

So, please, follow the rules when you are riding on public (or private) land, and ride safely!

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.