COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Improper use and lack of safety gear are the two major causes of ATV (all-terrain vehicle) crashes for both youth and adults. Ohio State University Extension and the National 4-H Council are teaming up this summer and fall to educate ATV operators so that a fun time doesn't turn into a disaster.
OSU Extension received a $7,500 statewide 4-H Community ATV Safety Program grant to train 4-H Master Volunteers and Extension educators on becoming ATV instructors, for the purpose of providing ATV educational sessions to 4-H youth and other individuals. The program has recruited volunteers in at least 15 counties: Williams, Ashtabula, Ashland, Stark, Tuscawaras, Harrison, Jefferson, Belmont, Morgan, Fairfield, Hocking, Ross, Gallia, Lawrence, and Brown. ATV manufacturers are funding the program.
Additionally, Scioto and Greene counties were the recipients of similar grants to conduct training. OSU Extension will hold its first instructor training session for the Master Volunteers June 29-30 at Ohio State University's Waterman Farm in Columbus, Ohio.
"The goal behind the 4-H ATV program is to build awareness of properly operating an ATV," said Randall Reeder, an OSU Extension agricultural engineer and coordinator of the statewide training programs. "Users don't perceive the ATV to be as dangerous as it can be."
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, between 1982 and 2005 (the most recent data available), Ohio was ranked 14th in the number of ATV-related deaths. For the past decade, Ohio 4-H has had only one Master Volunteer in ATV safety.
"Having more Master Volunteers trained to work with 4-H youth and adults should help improve our ATV safety record," said Reeder, who holds a research appointment with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.
The goal of the statewide grant is to conduct ATV safety clinics in at least 20 counties by December. Each clinic will total eight hours, with four hours of riding.
"Youth and adults need training to increase their skill level, help them appreciate basic riding techniques, and recognize dangers involved with reckless driving," said Reeder.
ATVs are popular for trail riding, hunting, farming and other recreational uses. Reeder said that the two biggest mistakes users make when operating ATVs is they don't wear a helmet and they ride with more than one person.
"Inexperience is a major safety problem. The highest number of injuries and deaths occurs during the first month of operation," said Reeder. "That means users are ignorant of proper ATV operation. It's important that they get trained before they even get on one and learn bad habits."
Reeder said there are a number of reasons why many ATV riders fail to make safety their No. 1 priority:
• The perception that ATVs are not dangerous. "ATVs are often thought of as toys," said Reeder. "Or, at the very least, thought of as being no more dangerous than, say, a riding lawnmower."
• The misconception that the long seat is designed for more than one rider. "ATVs should only have one person on them," said Reeder. "The long seat is designed that way so riders can shift their weight when going up or down hilly terrain."
• The idea that ATVs are safe to ride on pavement. "ATVs should never be ridden on pavement," said Reeder. "The design of the ATV is such that it doesn't turn like you normally expect, or in some cases not at all, on paved surfaces."
• The idea that ATVs are "one size fits all." According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 30 percent of all injuries and deaths occur in youth under 16, and riding the wrong ATV is a contributing factor. "A small rider on a full-sized ATV, even if all other precautions are taken, can be just as dangerous as not following safety guidelines," said Reeder. "You wouldn't allow someone to drive a car if he can't reach the pedals."
Ohio and 12 other states received the 4-H Community ATV Safety Program grant to conduct ATV safety programs to youth and adults.
OSU Extension's ATV Safety campaign will be a program highlight at this year's Ohio State University Farm Science Review, Sept. 18-20 at the Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London, Ohio. The program will include, among other things, educational material on how to safely operate an ATV.
For more information on the OSU Extension statewide grant and training programs, contact Randall Reeder at (614) 292-6648 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the ATV safety programs in Scioto and Greene counties, contact Regina Kuhn, Scioto County Extension educator in 4-H youth development, at (740) 354-7879, or Dail Gracy, Greene County Extension educator in 4-H youth development, at (937) 372-9971.