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ATV safe riding program aims to prevent youth accidents

ATV Youth.jpeg
Andrea Vandever-Moore
Oklahoma State University Extension
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. are affected by serious ATV injuries each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Nearly 90% of ATV crashes across Oklahoma happen to drivers under the age of 16 driving adult-sized ATVs.

With summer in full swing, many Oklahomans are going full throttle on their off-highway vehicles — but the Consumer Federation of America warns people to operate their OHVs with caution.

The state currently ranks third in the nation for highest OHV fatalities, with 13 fatalities already this year, according to the CFA. Different types of OHVs include All-Terrain Vehicles (e.g. quads, dirt bikes, etc.), Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles and Utility Task Vehicles.

Nearly 90% of ATV accidents in Oklahoma happen to young people under the age of 16 riding an ATV that’s too big for them, according to The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital. In an effort to teach young people how to safely ride ATVs, Oklahoma Farm Bureau sponsors the ATV Youth Riders Course offered through Oklahoma State University’s Extension office.

“When you're riding an ATV, your weight shift is what can help control and keep the tires on the ground,” said Jim Rhodes, OSU’s former ATV youth safety educator and current 4-H West District Program specialist. “If you're riding one that's too big for you, you can shift your whole body if you want to, but it's not going to keep that tire on the ground. So we teach about braking, throttle and weight shift to maintain control of that ATV.”

The training program includes a two-hour online course and a two-hour ATV riding course that are both certified by the ATV Safety Institute. The online course can be completed at home and teaches students how to plan for their trips, such as helping them understand that ATVs should be driven on dirt, gravel or grass and not paved roads.

The riding portion of the course can be done at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau/Oklahoma 4-H Training Facility in Guthrie. Participants can request to have instructors host the hands-on training near them, but only those who complete the course at the facility receive a fitted full-face helmet as part of a grant from the Southwest Ag Center, Rhodes said.

Todd Johnson
Oklahoma State University Agricultural Communications Services
Rhodes, pictured center, said the program has hosted over 100 classes and seen over 400 students complete it.

“We talk about the protective gear [students wear] because most of the time, these wrecks that have happened are because they don’t have a helmet on,” Rhodes said. “Or they’re driving too fast, or they ride one that’s too big for them, or a combination of all three.”

Wearing proper riding gear such as a fitted helmet reduces ATV-related deaths by at least 40%, according to The Children’s Center Rehabilitation Hospital. In addition to wearing helmets, Rhodes emphasized that it's important for young people to wear goggles, gloves, long sleeves, long pants and boots over the ankle when they go out to ride.

“You’re protecting yourself from the heat of the engine, the debris from the wheels and the branches that hit your legs and feet when you’re riding,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes said he hopes that students and families who participate in the program come away with learning how preventable ATV accidents can be.

“I want them to realize ATVs are fun, but they’re not a toy,” Rhodes said. “They’re a vehicle. And they need to wear their helmets and goggles at all times.”

Courses are offered year-round to young people between the ages of 10 to 18. Participants can learn more about visiting the training facility in Guthrie or having a training hosted near you by emailing Rhodes at jim.rhodes@okstate.edu or the new youth safety educator Ravyn Bevard at rbevard@okstate.edu.

General information about the ATV Youth Riders course can be found by visiting OSU’s Extension website.

Xcaret Nuñez covers agriculture and rural communities for KOSU as a corps member with Report for America.
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