In wake of accidents, officials offer ATV advice

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 7, 2004

Several incidents involving ATVs during the last few months have raised concerns about four-wheeler safety in the Miss-Lou.

But there are ways to help keep riders of all ages safe, according to safety instructors, ATV salesmen and law enforcement officials.

There have been ATV-related deaths &045; one near the Adams-Franklin county line and one in Wilkinson County &045; in the last several days and a serious injury in April near Ferriday.

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In a press release from the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Randy Maxwell advises putting safety first. He said four-wheelers are fun but can also be extremely dangerous. Maxwell also recommended that parents and their children sign up for an ATV rider safety course.

&uot;I can speak from experience,&uot; Maxwell said in a written statement. &uot;As long as a parent has their eyes on the kids, they’re going to behave. But as soon as you’re out of eyesight, they’re going to start clowning around &045; and that’s when accidents happen.&uot;

Thousands of people across the country are treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries, with many sustaining lifelong injuries, and a number of accidents involve deaths.

&uot;I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to become thoroughly familiar with the ATV, how it works and the safety precautions involved,&uot; Maxwell said. &uot;And the very best way is taking the rider safety class.&uot;

Buster Jamison, manager of Great River Honda, recommended that all ATV riders take a training course to learn how to properly operate a four-wheeler.

&uot;I don’t care how experienced you are, you can still get hurt&uot; without proper training, Jamison said.

He also suggested that riders always wear helmets when operating ATVs.

&uot;I think that it ought to be a law to make people wear helmets,&uot; Jamison said.

Jamison said many parents have four-wheelers they let their children operate. He said problems could occur when parents stop watching their children. He also said that, in terms of weight, ATVs are more dangerous than motorcycles for children.

Jamison said Honda doesn’t make a four-wheeler a child under the age of 12 can operate.

&uot;Honda has age limitations on each model of their ATVs,&uot; Jamison said. &uot;We can’t legally sell a given model to a person who falls under the limitation.&uot;

When people buy a new Honda ATV, according to Jamison, Honda offers an incentive to those who decide to take the training program.

&uot;Honda gives $100 to anyone who takes the course as long as they haven’t taken it before,&uot; Jamison said. &uot;There is no fee and Honda recommends that people take it.&uot;

People who own ATVs and are interested in taking safety courses don’t have to look very far. Troy Priest Jr. offers a course to help instruct drivers on safe operation of ATVs.

Priest, licensed through the ATV Safety Institute, will has his first class on June 26 at the Franklin Fair Grounds in Bude. He said he will be offering classes at the fairgrounds for now but hopes to have a training ground built at his home soon.

&uot;If I have it here, it’ll be more convenient for me and make it more interesting for students,&uot; Priest said.

Anyone interested in the course should contact the ATV Safety Institute at (800) 887-2887 to set up an appointment with Priest.

Priest said he will have some equipment on hand but encourages everyone interested in the course to bring his or her own equipment. That includes a helmet, gloves, long-sleeved pants or jacket, over-the-ankle boots, goggles or face shield on the helmet and long pants.

Priest also said he hopes to one day have loaner ATVs from dealers so that when families want to take the course, they can learn together.

The ATV Safety Institute offers additional advice to operators. For more information, visit the ATV Safety Institutes Web site at