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)
ATV safety has become a part of the 4-H curriculum in Louisiana, and breaking bad habits is one of the key lessons.
“As a youth development organization, it is the responsibility of 4-H to improve the quality of life and aid in providing a safe environment for youth in Louisiana,” said David Boldt, a 4-H science and technology instructor.
For the past five years, Boldt has been taking his message of ATV safety across the state, with about 5,000 youth served by the ATV safety program last year.
The 4-H training program is a four-hour course made possible through a grant from Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge.
Boldt said 4-H met its goal of training 200 students in 2012 in a rider-safety certification course. “It involves actual riding, so we can only train up to eight people at one time” he said. “It’s a pretty intense session.”
After the training session, the participants receive a certificate along with a safety helmet to carry home to make sure they practice what they’ve learned, he said.
In addition to these formal training sessions, Boldt also teaches five- to 10-minute sessions on ATV safety at LSU AgCenter special events, such as AgMagic. "We hope to reach over 5,000 kids this way in the coming year," he said.
The number and severity of injuries sustained in ATV accidents justifies the amount of time devoted to the program across the state, he said.
“In its annual report, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that over 130,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries last year; with more than a quarter of the injured being children,” Boldt said.
He explained that many of the accidents occur when children are operating ATVs that are too large for them to handle. “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 offers a few basic rules that can go a long way toward preventing ATV 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 900 young people completed the certification course while attending 4-H camp in 2012.
Each year with hunting season, comes an increase in ATV use. With that in mind, Boldt 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.
Boldt says his goal for the coming year is to get more AgCenter agents trained so they can bring the program to more youth and adult leaders across the state.
“Through the funding received from OLOL Children’s Hospital Funds Raised Grant, the 4-H ATV Safety Program has definitely increased its outreach ability to youth across Louisiana,” Boldt said.
Below are some of the program’s accomplishments from the 2011-2012 program year.
– More than 175 helmets were distributed to youth across the state during ATV Safety Awareness Programs.
– More than 200 youth and volunteers have completed the ASI Rider Course.
– AgCenter agents across the state held ATV safety trainings for youth who were participating in the state 4-H ATV contest – 46 4-H’ers went through 5-10 hours of training.
– 46 4-H’ers ages 13-19 completed the ASI online safety course.
– 46 4-H’ers participated in the state 4-H ATV Safety contest in which they took a written test, parts ID and demonstrated safe riding skills.
– M ore than 900 youth went through a three-day ATV Safety class at 4-H summer camp.
– A 4-H ATV safety display was set up at the Sherriff’s Annual Convention in Florida.
– More lthan 3,000 youth participated in the ATV Safety Program conducted by the OLOL Children’s Hospital and the LSU AgCenter at LSU AgCenter AgMagic .
– More than 3,000 youth participated in an ATV Safety Awareness program at the Louisiana State Fair located in Shreveport.
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.