Record ATV fatalities prompt safety campaign

Matt Gardner
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An alarming rise in fatalities and injuries related to all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) has prompted a campaign from a provincial group to promote greater safety awareness.

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Saskatchewan All Terrain Vehicle Association (SATVA) general manager John Meed said that his organization’s efforts to promote safe and responsible ATV use stemmed from sobering provincial statistics in recent years.

“Last year there was a record number of fatalities in the province, and in five of the eight cases, people weren’t wearing helmets,” Meed said.

“Also, there’s been a lot of video out there and the like about people not wearing helmets, and so we felt one thing we might want to do this year was a safety campaign focused on helmets.”

While SGI has published related statistics before, these were hampered by the fact that they only included information sent by police, which are not always comprehensive due to the fact that ATVs do not legally have to be registered.

Approaching the Ministry of Health for more in-depth numbers, SATVA uncovered statistics related to serious ATV-related injuries that underlined the extent of the problem.

Ministry statistics indicated that between 2008-9 and 2012-3, Saskatchewan residents were hospitalized more than 900 times both in and out of the province, including 220 cases where patients under the age of 16 were hospitalized.

Of the 167 hospitalizations that took place last year, the most common injuries involved the head (26), shoulder (24), leg/knee (15), internal organs (12), spine (11), chest (10), hip (9) and ankle/foot (5).

“This doesn’t even include stuff where it was handled at home or a doctor’s visit, or even going into the emergency room and being released right away,” Meed noted.

“So it’s not that we think it’s out of control. What we do think though is that maybe we have to reinforce those safety messages.”

The two major types of collisions or accidents involving ATVs are impact collisions -- in which an ATV hits something or another ATV hits them -- and rollovers, which can be sideways or end over end.

A frequent cause of rollovers is when two people ride on an ATV meant for one, which can affect the centre of gravity, upsetting the balance and putting riders at risk of a rollover and being crushed by the heavy ATV -- a risk that has previously led to fatalities in Saskatchewan.

Alcohol is another major factor increasing the risk of ATV-related injuries or fatalities.

Last year there was a record number of fatalities in the province, and in five of the eight cases, people weren’t wearing helmets. John Meed

“Alcohol and quads just don’t mix,” Meed said, noting that the risks associated with drinking and driving an ATV can be even greater than those in conventional motor vehicles.

“When you are going down a trail and you unexpectedly bounce against something, you need all your wits about you, and if you don’t have your wits about you, it can be tragic … Alcohol can tend to make you brave and you might take chances that you normally wouldn’t.”

Meed offered four main ways that ATV riders can have fun while staying safe.

The first and most important is to wear the appropriate gear. Though helmets and goggles are the most obvious, good boots, gloves and long-sleeved shirts and pants can also reduce risk.

The second was brief and to the point: “Don’t drink and ride,” Meed said.

“Just don’t do it. Celebrate after when you’re at home and you and your friends can have a nice social after out back at the campsite or whatever. But don’t do it during or before you go out on your ride.”

The third tip was not to put a passenger on the back of a single-rider ATV, which is likely to affect the stability of the vehicle -- particularly on a steep incline.

Finally, Meed urged people to take advantage of ATV training offered by SATVA or the Canadian Safety Council, which among other things teach people how to safely jump off an ATV that starts to roll.

When it comes to ATV-related injuries in the Prince Albert area, Parkland Ambulance Care public affairs director Lyle Karasiuk described local levels as no worse this year than last year.

“I wouldn’t say that they’d be common,” Karasiuk said. “I think that we will find them from time to time, just like we see any other type of injuries or collisions.

“We tend to see more ATV collisions obviously in the summertime, when more folks are at their recreational (activities) and their cottages, out with friends just touring around for the weekend.

“But again, it’s like any other vehicle -- whether it’s a boat, a car, an ATV, a snow machine,” he added. “People have to use these devices smartly.”

Organizations: Saskatchewan All Terrain Vehicle Association, Ministry of Health, Canadian Safety Council

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Prince Albert

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