An all-terrain vehicle has become an essential piece of equipment for many farm and ranch operations.

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Their versatility to be able to quickly scamper across rural roads, fields and pastures have made them a popular and economic tool for farmers and ranchers. Their growth over the past 40-plus years have made them popular with urban cousins, too, who enjoy taking them for a ride to enjoy the scenery whether on the prairie or in the mountains.

Still, there is a hidden danger, similar to someone who has rode a horse—something out of the norm can occur and spook the animal to cause severe injury. The same can be said about ATVs that without proper respect and preparation as noted by manufacturers—wearing a helmet, gloves with proper clothing and shoes, driving at a reasonable speed and having proper supervision and training for children—danger can lurk.

As of Dec. 31, 2016, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission noted that between 1982 and 2016, it had received reports of 14,653 ATV-related fatalities with a conservative estimate of 1,402 in the period of 2014-16. The CPSC believes the totals could be higher. In 2018, the Consumer Federation of America, reported 300 fatalities involving ATVs. A continuing thread from 1982-2016, the CPSC reported 3,232 ATV-related fatalities of children younger than age 16, which was 22% of the total and 1,411 of the deaths were younger than age 12.

Those numbers get anyone’s attention. One death or injury is too many.

Training and safety go hand-in-hand with common sense and sound judgment. The power of collaboration helps, too, as a story on page 5 in this week’s edition by Field Editor Lacey Newlin notes as she highlights what a southwest Kansas Extension agent and others are doing to put words into action as the agent noticed the trend of greater ATV use and pitfalls to farm youth.

Kurt Werth, a Gray County, Kansas Extension agent, and other agents for years have taught tractor safety and lawnmower safety and the Extension service has been on the frontlines in teaching youth how to be responsible babysitters.

But over the years Werth also wondered what could be done to help youth to be safe with ATVs. Working with six other agents they were able to complete a two-year certification program in Oklahoma.

They next approach was partnering with other entities to find a site in Gray County and with that mission accomplished it was the beginning of an important service that should catch the eye of others, particularly as ATV use continues to grow and with it comes the inherent safety risks.

This pro-active approach will take time but as Werth recognized the price by not paying attention.

As Werth told Newlin, “If we save one life or one kid from being hurt severely on a four wheeler, then we’ve done our job and it has been worth our time.”

Let’s hope the message of ATV safety continues to grow and the messengers who deliver it are well-received because they can help make a difference in rural America.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

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