By Cindy Wilson

Farm Bureau Women’s Committee

Van Buren County fifth-grade students experienced a special ATV safety lesson recently. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service teamed with Van Buren County Farm Bureau to bring the ATV Safety Mobile Educational Unit to the county. Certified ATV instructor, Brad Runsick, who is also the Fulton County extension agent, presented the training to the 156 youngsters.

Runsick told the students, "In the past six years 100 people in Arkansas alone have been killed in ATV accidents; 25 percent of those were children under the age of 16. In the past 30 years, since 4-wheelers have been around, the national death statistics reflect that over 10,000 deaths have occurred due to ATV accidents."

As the popularity of ATV riding continues to rise, it is imperative to educate youth on how to avoid accidents and keep safe.

The students, aged 10 and 11 years old, were asked the following questions:

• How many had ever driven a 4-wheeler - 147 of the 156 students (94%) responded affirmatively.

• How many wear a helmet when riding - 16 of 147 students (10%) responded they did.

• How many had ever had an accident - 54 of the 147 (36%) responded they had.

Runsick told the students that that most common injury on an ATV is a head injury. "If you don’t wear any other safety gear, wear a helmet and protect your brain. A broken bone heals pretty quickly, but injuries to the head may never heal," he said.

To demonstrate his point, he put a helmet on a watermelon and dropped it. It remained intact. He then dropped an unprotected cantaloupe and it split open. He acknowledged that a person’s head is a lot harder than a melon, however, normally a 4-wheeler is not stationary when an accident occurs. The speed and impact can be many more times damaging to a head.

He also cautioned, "helmets are not any good if the chin strap is not buckled on." He showed examples of the type of helmet needed for ATV riding. A full face helmet provides the best protection to head, face, jaws and neck. It is designed for high impact collisions, where bicycle helmets are designed for low impact. Other safety gear is goggles, gloves, boots, long sleeves and long pants.