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The law says think safety first on ATVs

By Drew Sechler
dsechler@salisburypost.com
With school out and temperatures climbing, all-terrain vehicles will become a more common sight around Rowan County.
Riding all-terrain vehicles ó commonly called ATVs or four-wheelers ó is a fun recreational activity many local young people enjoy. But it can also be a dangerous activity when proper steps aren’t taken to ensure safety.
Rowan has had one ATV-related fatality in the past year. And accidents since 2007 left one local rider paralyzed and caused another to lose his leg.
Andrew Hastings, now 10, lost his left leg in an ATV accident in July 2007 while visiting family friends in Mount Holly.
Andrew’s mother, Elizabeth Hastings, said the family’s life “has been totally turned upside down” by the accident and that it could have been avoided.
“Andrew did not have our permission to ride the four-wheeler,” Hastings said.
Hastings says it’s mainly parents to blame when children who are too young get on ATVs and have accidents.
“It’s the parents’ fault. They need to take responsibility with the child,” she said. “Parents want to be their children’s friend and we are not here to be their friend, we are here to guide and lead them. If that friendship comes later on, then that’s fine.”
People who sell ATVs say they stress safety regulations.
Steve Allen, general service manager of Extreme Motor Sports in Salisbury, says the business informs all buyers of ATVs of state laws, rules and regulations regarding age limits on certain vehicles.
According to North Carolina law, it is unlawful for any parent or legal guardian of a person less than 16 years of age to knowingly permit that person to operate an all-terrain vehicle with an engine capacity greater than 90 cubic centimeter displacement.
Basically, that means the larger the ATV, the less likely someone under the age of 16 can legally operate it.
The law says anyone 18 or older may operate any type of ATV.
According to the Web site www.ATVsafety.gov, children under 16 on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding ATVs made for youths.
ATVs are potentially dangerous vehicles and can reach speeds in excess of 60 mph. They can easily go out of control with an inexperienced or improperly trained rider, safety advocates say.
In 2006, the state enacted a law requiring every ATV operator born after Jan. 1, 1990, to complete a safety course sponsored or approved by the All Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute.
The nearest training course for Rowan County residents is offered in Asheboro.
Hunters, trappers and farmers are exempt from the provision.
Elizabeth Hastings, the mother of Andrew Hastings, says the laws need to be enforced more strictly.
“If a police officer sees a child riding a four-wheeler, they need to enforce that law, just like if you see someone underage drinking,” she said.
Hastings says her family was not aware of the current laws and found them on the Internet. She thinks others ought to know.
Most importantly, Hastings says, she wants others to learn from what happened to her son, and her family.
Here are some tips from www.atvsafety.gov:
– ATVs are not toys. They are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles.
– ATVs can travel at speeds in excess of 60 mph and can weigh in excess of 700 pounds.
– ATVs can easily roll and tip over. Their unpredictable nature in off-road conditions makes training and proper use essential.
– All riders should always wear a helmet when on an ATV.
– About one-third of ATV-related deaths and injuries involve children.
– Stay off paved roads and avoid unfamiliar terrain.
– Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV.
– Do not drive an ATV while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
– All riders should take a hands-on safety training course.

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