ATV safety an issue for parents, riders alike

Alex Sallade, 10, wears a helmet and protective gear as he rides his dirt bike Thursday afternoon in Clovis. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)

By Leslie Radford: CNJ staff writer

Kendall McDaniel said he has been a motorcycle enthusiast since he was old enough to ride — which for him was 4. Over the years, he has been in numerous accidents and even broken a few bones. He said the experiences have made him understand the importance of being a safe rider.

“I dislocated a shoulder about five years ago,” said the 26-year-old former amateur motocross racer. “I blew out my knee — it doesn’t work so good anymore. But everything I’ve done, I would have come out a lot worse if I hadn’t been wearing proper gear.”

He’s especially thankful for his helmet — a safety issue addressed in a bill that was signed into law by Gov. Bill Richardson earlier this year mandating the use of helmets, eye protection, training and adult supervision of children under 18 when they’re riding off-highway vehicles.

“(Helmets) protect your melon,” said McDaniel who supports New Mexico’s decision to implement the law. “There’s a lot of idiots out there. People need to learn about being safe and take precautions when around other riders.”

Richardson said the Off-Highway Safety Act would “help prevent the tragedies that are becoming all too commonplace in our state,” especially concerning children.
McDaniel believes most accidents involve younger riders because of their inexperience and attempts to imitate professional riders.

“Some kids just think they are indestructible,” he said remembering accidents he might have avoided when he was younger.

“You know, I never really thought about safety when I was a kid,” said McDaniel. “But now that I’m a father, I see the need for rules. Kids see stuff on TV and think they can get out there and do it too and there’s a lot more involved to just hopping on a bike or four-wheeler and going.”

This is an issue Ronnie Jones deals with at High Desert Honda in Clovis. He sees a need to educate parents and children about age-appropriate off-highway vehicles (OHV) and safety precautions.

“Too many young riders are getting on over-sized ATVs and are involved in serious accidents,” Jones said. “Parents need to be held responsible for their child’s safety — 700 (cubic centimeters) is too much power for a 5-year-old.”

State officials hope the bill increases safer, responsible OHV riding and reduces accidents and fatalities involving motorcycles and dirt bikes. The law will go into affect Jan. 1. With New Mexico not having any prior statutes concerning OHV safety, Jones said he is particularly pleased the new law will require underage riders to wear protective head gear.

“(Helmets) could be the difference between life and death in a OHV accident,” said Jones, who has ridden motorcycles for 38 years.

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that almost 1,400 children under the age of 16 died in OHV-related accidents between 1982 and 1999. New Mexico saw more than 130 deaths during that time; 40 more were reported in 2000.

CPSC reports that more than 71,000 ATV-related injuries occur annually and more than 92 percent of all accidents “involve one or more user behaviors that are strongly and visibly warned against by the industry in dealerships, in product literature, in public awareness messages, through rider training, and on the vehicle itself.” Those behaviors include: Riding without a helmet, children riding adult-sized ATVs, children riding unsupervised, riding on public roads, and riding at excessive speed.

A full report on ATV-related deaths and injuries can be viewed on CPSC’s Web site at: www.cpsc.gov.

Rules for Safe ATV Operation
1. Always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
2. Never ride on public or paved roads.
3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.
5. Ride an ATV that’s age appropriate. The Consumer Product Ssafety Council uses these guidelines:
    Age 6 and older      Under 70cc
    Age 12 and older     70cc – 90cc
    Age 16 and older     Over 90cc
6. Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
8. Take an ATV RiderCourse; to enroll call toll free (800) 887-2887.

Source: ATV Safety Institute, www.atvsafety.org

ATV Safety Provisions in Senator Feldman’s Proposed Bill for New Mexico
The industry’s Model State Legislation has served as the basis for many existing state ATV safety laws, and many of its principles were incorporated into Senator Feldman’s proposed ATV safety bill, including:
• Helmet and eye protection required for riders under age 18.
• Operators under age 10 must be supervised at all times by a parent, guardian, or certified safety training course instructor.
• Operators under age 18 must successfully complete a certified training course.
• Operators between age 10-18 must be supervised at all times by a parent, guardian or person over age 18 who has a valid driver’s license, with certain exceptions (if the person is: over 15 and has a valid driver’s license and off-highway motor vehicle safety permit; over 12 and has a valid motorcycle license and off-highway motor vehicle safety permit; or part of an organized tour under the guidance or direction of a guide certified by the board.)
• Prohibits carrying a passenger unless vehicle is specifically designed by the manufacturer to carry a passenger.
• Prohibits operation in a careless manner or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• Requires lighted headlight and tail light when operating during hours of darkness.
• Requires OHV dealers to distribute information recommended by the board to purchasers on state laws, safety requirements, training programs, operating characteristics and potential risk of injury associated with OHVs.
• Establishes an off-highway motor vehicle safety board which shall by January 1, 2007, implement a state off-highway motor vehicle safety training and certification program.