All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and their big brothers, utility-type vehicles (UTVs), are fun and practical. But if misused they can be dangerous, and even deadly. The Consumer Products Safety Commission said in 2006, the last full year of verified reporting, there were an estimated 903 deaths in the U.S. related to ATV use, and 146,600 emergency-room treated injuries. The CPSC said as of 2008 the risk of death every year was a startling 70 for every 100,000 four-wheelers in use.
Capt. Tim Hull, director of the Public Information and Education Division for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, knows these risks all too well. “It’s far all too often that we get calls,” Hull told Ozarks Farm & Neighbor, “especially as the weather starts warming up, and we see some holiday periods where people are visiting relatives, going out to their farms and operating ATVs.”
With Arkansas law, the cut-off age for unsupervised use is 12, and children operating an ATV must either be with a person 18 or older, 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.
Amanda Williams, Safety Coordinator for Arkansas Farm Bureau, says it’s important to match the size of the ATV to the operator; they’re rated based on weight. “If you have a 100 lb. person, they’re not going to have complete control of a 600 lb. ATV,” Williams tells OFN.
UTVs, she says, “are now equipped with the roll-over protection systems (ROPS) and seat belts and with those combined, that keeps the driver in the driver’s seat. With passengers as well… so if a UTV was to roll over it’s going to keep the driver and the passengers in their seats as long as they have their seat belts on, and so they will not be ejected from the vehicle.” UTVs also now have either doors or a netting; that keeps arms and legs inside the vehicle for protection in the event of a rollover.
The biggest mistake operators of ATVs make, Williams says, is to allow more than one rider. “You have more stability when you have one rider,” she says. “They are made to have one person on there, not two people, and you have more control of the ATV if there’s only one on there.” ATVs are safe, she says, if you follow the guidelines, “but it takes both you and the machine to be safe.”

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