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If you ride ATVs, know how to be safe.

Byline: YOUR HEALTH By Heather Hughes For The Register-Guard

This time of year, the beauty and breathtaking vistas from the top of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area draw thousands of all-terrain vehicle recreationists. The drive up the sandy peaks is a spectacular one; the views incomparable.

Standing atop a dune looking down at the awe-inspiring roll of Oregon's sandy peaks, it is understandable how all-terrain vehicle riding has become an outdoor- and family-oriented activity. ATV events, competitions and clubs account in part for a doubling of American users to 7.8 million between 1999 and 2006, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Along with that increase come some notable statistics: Nationwide, ATV riders younger than 16 continue to make up about a quarter of those killed and nearly one-third of those injured; and in Oregon, the percentage of riders injured as well the severity of injuries - such as spinal cord damage or other serious trauma - has increased.

During the warm months, hospitals and emergency personnel in Lane County handle a surge of ATV-related injuries and deaths. Typically, PeaceHealth rural hospitals in the coastal area handle about half of the ATV-injured patients for the year between April and July.

And statewide, treatment costs for ATV trauma cases have tripled in eight years to more than $12 million - a quarter of which is paid for through Medicaid.

With children, safety on ATVs begins first with size-appropriate machines. An adult-sized ATV weighs nearly 800 pounds. Children suffer injuries and death most often from being pinned by these large machines, or when they lack the physical coordination to successfully maneuver them.

The ATV overturns in about one of every three fatal crashes. Those situations often occur because of rapid shifts in the dune that cause a "razorback," where one side looks soft and rolling but the other side drops suddenly, sometimes 75 feet or more.

These sheer drop-offs can result in both adults and children being injured or killed from the blunt force.

Manufacturers recommend that young riders 6 and older be fitted with vehicles no bigger than 50 cc and that run at speeds up to 15 miles an hour and usually weigh up to 70 pounds. Bigger kids may be able to handle larger models but cannot and should not try to handle a full 800-pound, 250 cc machine. Transitional models that have engines that top out at 150 cc were introduced by the industry last year.

Useful ATV safety information can be accessed by parents and relatives online at In addition, users should know about new state laws being phased in over five years.

Children younger than 18 are now required to ride with their helmet chin straps fastened and be supervised by someone 18 or older who has received accredited ATV training and can provide immediate assistance.

Beginning in January, riders younger than 16 must ride on a vehicle specifically fitted to them and complete a mandatory education course on safe, responsible riding behavior. Those who pass will receive an ATV Education Card to carry while riding on public land.

Other aspects of this law can be found online at

In addition, ATV operators younger than 16 will be subject to new fitting requirements that test for finger and leg reach. Look to ATV dealers for help with these and other specifics to ensure that young riders are matched to an appropriately sized vehicle.

While the new laws are designed to provide more protection for our children, riders between the ages of 26 and 49 make up the majority of the serious injuries and fatalities seen at our hospitals. Common causes of ATV-related injuries are spinal cord, thoracic and abdominal injuries and asphyxiation - or suffocation.

For prevention, some good guides are the "golden rules" developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the ATV Safety Institute (see inset).

Registered nurse Heather Hughes is trauma nurse coordinator at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend.

Golden Rules of ATV Use

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the ATV Safety Institute make these recommendations for the safe enjoyment of this family activity:

Always wear a helmet and other protective gear. Head trauma is one of the most common injuries from ATV use. Check for helmets certified by the Department of Transportation or Snell Memorial Foundation. In addition, wear clothing that protects against abrasions and flying objects.

Never ride on public roads. Outside of crossing roads to get to the other side, ATVs are poorly designed for paved roads. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports many fatalities occur there.

Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Impaired ATV driving is a risk factor for injury and death.

Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle. ATVs are designed for what is called "interactive riding," which requires sudden weight shifts for control. Extra riders decrease maneuverability and are often the ones who are injured or killed.

Ride a size-appropriate ATV. Manufacturers make youth models and dealers will fit models to individual sizes.

Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.

Take an ATV RiderCourse; call toll-free at (800) 887-2887, or go to The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports riders trained in ATV use have fewer injuries than those who have no training.
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Title Annotation:Springfield Extra
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 4, 2008
Previous Article:THE GARDENS ARE OPEN.
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