OMAHA (DTN) -- One of the more useful vehicles on a farm or ranch is an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or a utility-terrain vehicle (UTV). Often, these machines can go places other larger equipment, such as pickups or tractors, just can't go.
Plus, they are pretty fun to operate.
While extremely useful and fun, these vehicles are often dangerous to operate. Their lightweight design makes them more susceptible to tipping over, and this can lead to injury or even death for both the driver and passengers.
Hundreds of people are killed every year in ATV/UTV accidents. And this is especially true for young people operating ATVs/UTVs.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are about 650 deaths and 100,000 injuries every year involving ATVs. This is data from 2014 to 2016. (See https://onsafety.cpsc.gov/….)
In 2016, there were more than 101,200 injuries from accidents with ATVs. Nearly 26% of these injuries were to children under the age of 16, according to CPSC.
Knowing this is a problem, Jim Rhodes decided to do something about this. The Oklahoma State University Extension ATV youth safety educator organized the first ATV Youth Riders Course for 10- to 18-year-olds in 2020, according to an Oklahoma State University Extension news release. (See https://news.okstate.edu/….)
Since then, he has organized 50 classes and reached about 300 Oklahoma youths who operate ATVs.
"As I read the newspaper and saw the number of accidents from ATVs that were happening, I knew something needed to be done to help the kids," Rhodes said.
The course includes an online element that takes about two hours to complete. The online part teaches kids about personal protection equipment (PPE) and that they should only ride on dirt, gravel or grass and never drive on paved roads.
PPE is a critical part of safe ATV riding, according to Rhodes. Wearing gloves, long sleeves, boots that go over the ankle, long pants, goggles and a helmet are important to safe riding.
Once the online portion of the course is completed, kids can attend the riding portion of the course. This part can be done in Guthrie, Oklahoma, at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau/Oklahoma 4-H ATV Training Facility, or the facilitators can even host the hands-on training close to participating youths' locations.
During the riding portion of the course, participants are taught to make regular and sharp turns and how to negotiate difficult obstacles. They also learn how to shift weight during turns and the proper techniques while riding over hills.
"As kids ride our course, you can see their confidence level increase," he said. "We have kids who show up and have never ridden an ATV, and then we have kids who own an ATV and ride all the time."
Rhodes secured a grant from the Southwest Ag Center, worth more than $20,000, to purchase full-face helmets for participants if they complete the course. Each helmet is valued at $120, and Rhodes hopes having a helmet will encourage youth to wear it while operating an ATV.
Courses are offered year-round but are dependent on the weather. If students live within two hours of Guthrie, Rhodes recommends coming to the Oklahoma Farm Bureau/Oklahoma 4-H ATV training facility to participate in the course and receive their free helmet.
In addition, facilitators can schedule a date to go to the students' areas to complete the hands-on riding course. Six OSU Extension educators and three Farm Bureau employees are ATV Safety Institute certified to teach the course.
Rhodes can book up to two groups of eight students in one day. One group would take the course in the morning while another group takes the course in the afternoon.
"If they can ride safely at home using what they learn here, I know I've made at least a small impact," Rhodes said. "That's my goal."
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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