ATV fatality rate concerns DNR officials

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say they’re concerned about the recent upward trend in all-terrain vehicle (ATV) deaths.

So far this year, 16 people have died in ATV accidents in the state, according to DNR officials. That compares to 14 for all of 2009. Minnesota had 17 ATV-related fatalities in 2008. A record 24 occurred in 2004.

“It’s hard to really draw conclusions on why they’re happening, other than the reckless operation of the ATVs themselves,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Safety Education coordinator, in a prepared statement. “ATV riding is very popular in Minnesota, but people are operating ATVs beyond their capability.”

“In every one of these fatalities, no one has taken the safety training, and it’s free,” Hammer said.

Ages of those involved in accidents is across the board, from 9 to 85, Hammer said. But most of those involved in fatalities were adults.

Safety training is required for younger riders.

“We’re seeing the age of people involved in ATV accidents on the rise,” Hammer said. “The (safety training) program is working with the youth. They’re having a decrease (in accidents).

DNR officials say rollovers are to blame in many fatalities. Since July 4, ATV rollovers have claimed the lives of six Minnesotans. Typically, a machine rolls to the right or left, or tumbles forward on a downhill when the rider is making a sharp turn, Hammer said.

“That outside tire digs in, and with its low pressure, it bends underneath and aids in flipping the machine,” he said. “Even at a low rate of speed, it can do you in.

“People don’t realize how easy it is to flip one of those things over. The weight of those things nowadays is 600 or 700 pounds. You try to get out from under it, and you can’t.”

Hammer recommends that all ATV riders complete the course regardless of age and follow these basic safety principles.

Anyone born after July 1, 1987, must complete an ATV CD Training Course before operating an ATV. The course covers a variety of topics including safety and rules and can be obtained through the DNR at a cost of $15.

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