Belcher competes in 4-H Safety Project


Nataleigh Belcher is an 11th grade student at ECI. She recently competed in the 4-H Safety Project and would like to share her project.

ATV Safety—What All Parents Should Know

Riding a 4-wheeler can be a lot of fun, and with Christmas right around the corner, Santa’s bound to have more than a few to deliver. It’s important to remember that 4-wheelers, a type of all-terrain vehicle or ATV, are a powerful piece of equipment meant for off-road use.

From 1985–2015, ATV crashes killed more than 3,000 children under the age of 16. Nearly 1 million more were taken to the emergency room due to an ATV crash. In fact, it's estimated that in the United States, about 4 kids are seen in an emergency room every hour for an ATV-related injury.

The most common types of ATV injuries are bumps, bruises, cuts, dislocations, and fractures. But more serious injuries also happen. A rollover can lead to trauma to the chest, abdomen, head or spine. Concussions and other head injuries are common, especially if the rider is not wearing a helmet.

Four-wheeler accidents can happen for a lot of different reasons-- driver inexperience, unsafe speed, too many riders, and riding a 4-wheeler that is too big for you. Accidents can also happen even if you’re not doing anything wrong. Parents of any child that will be receiving or riding a 4-wheeler should be fully informed about the risks of ATVs and understand best practices to help prevent accidents and injuries. The American Association of Pediatrics urges you to follow these safety guidelines.

• Always wear protective gear — especially a helmet. Head injuries are by far the leading cause of death and disability related to ATV crashes. Wearing a helmet may greatly prevent or reduce the severity of a head injury in a crash. Even though there is no helmet law in Georgia for off-road vehicles, all riders should wear the proper gear — a helmet with a DOT approved sticker, goggles, gloves, long sleeved shirt and pants, and over the ankle boots.

• Don't ride with or as a passenger. Most 4-wheelers are designed to carry only one person: the driver. Passengers can make the 4-wheeler less stable and difficult to control.

• Stay off public roads. 4-wheelers are not designed to be driven on the road like cars and trucks. They don't have the common safety equipment that all cars and trucks do. 4-wheelers have knobby treaded, low pressure tires off-road tires that can unevenly grab paved or gravel road surfaces and lead to loss of control and rollover. Not only is it not safe, for kids, it’s illegal. In Georgia, ATVs can be driven on state land, highways, or on the street ONLY if you have a valid drivers license.

• Only use an ATV that is the right size for the driver. Adult-sized ATVs can weigh over 800 lbs. and reach speeds over 70 mph. Their size and speed make them too dangerous for kids to drive. More than 90% of deaths and injuries among ATV riders younger than 16 have occurred when they were on adult-size vehicles.

• Never allow riding at night. This means no riding after dusk and until dawn. Flags, reflectors, and lights should always be used to make vehicles more visible.

A 4-wheeler can be a great gift and can provide many years of fun as long as it’s operated safely. If there is a good possibility that Santa will leave a 4-wheeler or other type of ATV under your tree this year, please take the necessary precautions to make sure that gift won’t become a hazard.