This year’s theme for National Farm Safety and Health Week was:  “ATV’s – Work Smart, Ride Safe.”
Jesse Bocksnick, County Extension Agent for Sebastian County 4-H in Arkansas, explained, “ATV safety is a very important issue because it seems that every year more and more kids and adults are injured on ATV’s.”
Bocksnick said, “People just don’t realize how powerful these machines are or how much damage they can do.” He advised that education is the best solution. He said, “If there is one thing that can help, it is getting the right size machine and getting some basic knowledge of how they handle.” Bocksnick advised that ATV-related accidents are not something to take lightly:  “Like mom always says, ‘it is fun until someone gets hurt,’ only with ATV’s it can be life or death.”
Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri’s Safety Specialist, described, “ATV accidents are more common than not.” She cited this harrowing number:  “In the U.S. about 40,000 children under the age of 16 are treated in emergency departments for ATV-related injuries each year.” According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission 2008 Annual Report for ATV-Related Deaths and injuries: Over 135,000 were injured, 28 percent under the age of 16; and 410 people were killed, 18 percent under the age of 16, said Funkenbusch. With statistics like this, practicing ATV safety is imperative.
“Did you know,” asked Funkenbusch, “ATV’s roll over easily? ATV’s aren’t meant for passengers? ATV’s can weigh up to 800 pounds?” She explained that, “Regardless of the reasons for operating an ATV, the same safety rules apply. Uneven terrain or unforeseen obstacles can easily cause an ATV to roll over. In addition, passengers can alter the weight distribution on an ATV and make them even more likely to become unstable and roll over. In the event of a roll over, it would be practically impossible for the operator to lift an 800 pound machine off of their body.”
Both Funkenbusch and Bocksnick cite “inadequate operator experience,” as one of the leading causes of ATV accidents. Funkenbusch also cited that “driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, operating the ATV at excessive speeds and carrying passengers” are other reasons for ATV accidents. Ultimately, inexperience and youth, with ATV use is a potentially deadly combination and the best way to avoid it, said Funkenbusch, is through “specialized training.”
Bocksnick explained, “A great solution for experienced and inexperienced riders is to contact your local extension office and ask about a 4-H ATV safety program.” Rider safety courses are also offered locally across the nation. The ATV Safety Institute ( lists local safety courses and even offers an ATV Safety E-Course.

ATV Statistics and Laws
Total Reported Deaths:
1982-2008*: 252
1982-2005: 218
2006-2008*: 34
1982-2005: 58 children under 16
•    An ATV can be titled if registered by the owner.
•    All 3- and 4-wheeled ATV’s are required to be registered, and the owner shall receive one numbered decal to be placed on the ATV.
•    No ATV shall be operated without a lighted headlight and taillight from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise.
•    A person under 12 may not operate an ATV unless with a person 18 or older, or on a parent’s land, or with the permission of the land owner.
•    ATVs may not be used on public streets or highways, except to cross these roads or for farming or hunting to get from one field to another. An ATV may be used on public streets outside city limits to get from one trail to another or to private property.
Total Reported Deaths:
1982-2008*: 152
1982-2005: 114
2006-2008*: 38
1982-2005: 46 children under 16
•    All riders (passengers and operator) must wear a helmet when operating an ATV in certain designated riding areas.
•    ATVs purchased on or after July 1, 2005, shall be registered and titled.
•    ATV use on streets or highways is prohibited except:
– to cross these roads, or
– for no more than 300 feet to cross a railroad track during daylight hours, or
– on unpaved roads on U.S. Forest Service property.
(*Data collection for 2006-2008 is incomplete. Source:


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