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Sat, June 06

Editorial: Have fun, but remain safe

Summer officially begins on Fathers' Day. Daylight hours and temperatures continue to increase, allowing us extra time to play in wide, open spaces on the Kaibab National Forest. Unfortunately, we also see an increase in accidents involving all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

From 2005 to 2007, there were 52 ATV-related deaths throughout the state of Arizona, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2007 alone, 804 trauma cases resulting from ATV-related crashes were reported, including 12 fatalities, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

AAA Arizona offers the following safety tips for ATV operators -

• Protect yourself. Always wear a helmet and protective safety gear when riding an ATV. Approximately three-quarters of annual ATV trauma victims were not wearing a helmet, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

• Stay sober. Drugs and alcohol impair reaction time and judgment, skills that are critical when operating an ATV. Beware of prescription medications, which could have side effects and adversely affect your ability to operate an ATV. Driving an off-road vehicle while under the influence carries similar repercussions as a DUI, including fines and jail time.

• Know the risks of the equipment. Many fatalities involving ATVs are a result of a driver losing control of the equipment. Factors that can reduce a driver's control are passengers and driving on paved roads. Children under the age of 16 on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding more size appropriate youth ATVs.

• Seek hands-on training and education. Many ATV crashes are the result of an inexperienced operator. ATV riders can take a course, which provides professional training through the ATV Safety Institute.

If you witness an ATV being operated irresponsibly or dangerously, do not approach the offender. Instead, contact law enforcement as soon as you can. Provide details that could prove to be helpful such as the location of the incident, vehicle color, clothing description, and when possible, license plate information. ATV operators, have fun but stay safe.

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