|Teaching ATV safety is part of 4-H summer camp. (Photo by Mark Claesgens)|
|Learning ATV safety helps save lives and prevent injury. (Photo by Johnny Morgan)|
|4-H'ers learn the safety rules as they learn to drive ATVs. (Photo by Mark Claesgens)|
Learning safety in the operation of all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs, is a popular part of the science and technology program in 4-H in Louisiana and nationwide.
“There is a certain culture related to riding ATVs in Louisiana. Some of that culture is unsafe, and what we are trying to do is break that culture,” said Todd Tarifa, volunteer specialist and an ATV safety instructor in the state 4-H office.
Tarifa said some of the “no-no’s” in that culture include carrying multiple riders and riding without proper safety equipment such as a helmet. He said these two points are stressed at the many ATV trainings the LSU AgCenter conducts across the state.
Nationally, there were more than 150,000 emergency room visits because of accidents related to ATVs. Of those accidents, 27 percent involved individuals under 16 years of age. In Louisiana, the figure was much higher – 60 percent.
According to David Boldt, a 4-H science and technology instructor, children operating ATVs too large are the cause of many accidents. “It just doesn’t make sense for a 12-year-old to be driving a 450cc four-wheeler. That’s an accident waiting to happen,” Boldt said.
Boldt said 4-H has a goal of training 200 students in 2012 in a rider-safety certification course. “That number may sound low, but it is a four-hour course. It involves actual riding, so we can only train up to eight people at one time. It’s a pretty intense session,” he said.
In addition, Boldt teaches five- to 10-minute sessions on ATV safety at special events such as AgMagic. "We reach another 3,000-4,000 kids this way," he said.
Another element of the program that has helped generate interest is a helmet give-away sponsored by Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. More than 300 helmets have been given to participants.
Boldt and Tarifa offer a few basic rules that can go a long way toward preventing accidents:
– Always wear the proper protective equipment, which includes a helmet, gloves, goggles, long pants, long-sleeved shirt and boots with low heels.
– Check and make sure equipment is working properly such as the throttle and other cables, brakes, footshifter and lights.
– Always ride an ATV rated for your age and not rated for older individuals.
– Don’t carry multiple riders on single-rider vehicles, and never ride on public roads.
– Never operate an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Another part of safety training involves hunter safety. Boldt encourages students to take the required hunter certification course offered at 4-H summer camps. Louisiana law states that individuals born on or after Sept. 1, 1969, must complete a hunter certification course before receiving a hunting license. There is no fee involved in taking the course.
Boldt estimates approximately 300 young people completed the certification course while attending camp in 2010.
He offered the following hunting safety guidelines:
– Never ride in any vehicle including ATVs with a loaded weapon.
– Treat every weapon as if it is loaded.
– Always point the muzzle of a gun in a safe direction.
– Be certain of your target and what’s beyond it.
– The gun safety should be kept on and fingers should be kept outside the trigger area until you are ready to shoot.
Learn how to become part of the Louisiana 4-H program.
The LSU AgCenter is one of 11 institutions of higher education in the Louisiana State University System. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, it provides educational services in every parish and conducts research that contributes to the economic development of the state. The LSU AgCenter does not grant degrees nor benefit from tuition increases. The LSU AgCenter plays an integral role in supporting agricultural industries, protecting the environment, and improving the quality of life through its 4-H youth, family and community programs.