The Mountain Eagle
Whitesburg KY
Partly sunny
Partly sunny

ATV deaths rise in Kentucky


Despite stricter laws and calls for safer riding, all-terrain vehicle deaths are on the rise in Kentucky – the nation’s leader in fatal ATV collisions.

As of May 31, Kentucky had 17 fatal ATV collisions – nearly three times the amount reported by the end of May 2006. Kentucky had 21 ATV-related fatalities in both 2005 and 2006, according to Kentucky State Police.

“We understand that ATV riding is very popular in Kentucky,” Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission, said. “But we are very concerned about the recent upward trend in deaths.”

The commission ranks Kentucky No. 1 in fatal ATV collisions, Wolfson said.

Appalachian states West Virginia and Pennsylvania round out the top three with the most ATV fatalities, according to the agency’s 2002-2005 estimates, the most recent available. Thirteen southern states – from West Virginia to Louisiana – make up 40 percent of ATV fatalities.

Wolfson noted three ATV fatalities reported to state police over the Memorial Day weekend, including the death of a 5-yearold girl riding a four-wheeler with her mother. Neither was wearing a helmet, despite a law passed last year requiring all riders 16 and under to wear protective head gear.

This year, two other children – a 14-year-old and a 16-yearold – were also killed in ATV crashes, although the latter was wearing a helmet.

Melinda Mast, executive director of the Brain Injury Association of Kentucky, said she was shocked but not surprised at this year’s fatalities because the state helmet law has “a very narrow focus when it only targets kids 16 and under.”

However, lawmakers said attempting to regulate adult riders would be impractical.

Getting new safety regulations cleared through the legislature is often difficult, said state Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, who pushed for the ATV helmet law last year.

“You do have to pull teeth to get those kinds of things regulated,” Denton said.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and industry officials are encouraging riders to get training on riding ATVs safely. In June, officials from the ATV Safety Institute, an industry group, are holding training sessions at the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky.

“I don’t think a lot of people have an inherent sense of safety,” Mast said. “However, education is probably the best way to get safe.”

The reason ATV deaths in Kentucky are on the rise is hard to determine, said state police spokesman Sgt. Travis Tennill. Several factors come into play with every collision, such as terrain, ATV size and alcohol.

And, unlike driving a vehicle, training and licensing is not required to ride ATVs, so the experience of each rider isn’t always clear.

“It’s hard to really draw conclusions on why they’re happening other than the reckless operation of the ATVs themselves,” he said. “People are operating these ATVs beyond their capability.”

Kevin Hall, owner of Yamaha-Pikeville, said the issue is more about consumer responsibility than legislative action.

“The laws are about as stringent as they can be right now,” he said.

Kentucky’s new law calls for fines of $20-$50 when children are caught riding without helmets, but law enforcement officers say the law is more about safety than punishment.

State police have said officers would only take action against violators on public roadways and trails, while some local agencies said they would issue warnings if they observe kids riding without helmets on private property.

Leave a Reply