070604 ATV SAFETY1

070604 ATV SAFETY1 - NG/JUNE DOUG BENZ/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER RANSOMVILLE, N.Y. - Samantha Collins, 16, an employee at Wisor Polaris, takes a ride at the dealership, Monday, June 4, 2007.

As the summer season approaches, all terrain vehicle riders will be jumping on their ATVs and riding throughout Niagara County.

If they’re not careful they could be risking death or serious injury.

In an effort to educate riders, a Niagara County ATV dealer will be offering safety training courses for its customers.

Eric Wisor, owner of a Polaris dealership, has offered a safety training course for 13 years because it was the policy of Polaris to make every new customer take a training course.

Since Polaris stopped making the training course mandatory two years ago, Wisor’s Polaris, 2958 Ridge Road, Ransomville, has been offering its customers the same training course for $45 if a rider purchases or already owns an ATV or $65 if a the rider does not have an ATV.

“The course is important because it makes riders watch a video, pass a written examination and then get first-hand riding experience,” Wisor said. “The purpose of the course is to educate the riders, not fail them.”

New York is the fifth leading state in reported ATV deaths, according to the 2005 annual report of ATV related deaths and injuries compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Niagara County officials realize the numbers of deaths and injuries and recognize the risks that ATVs can pose.

“Most of the outcomes from ATV accidents are not good for the riders and are very serious,” said James Volkosh, Niagara County fire coordinator. Volunteer fire company are often first responders to the scene of ATV accidents. “Most of the accidents are because riders don’t wear helmets, riding beyond their capability or don’t use common sense,” Volkosh said.

The deaths and injuries to children under the age of 16 is something that is emphasized in Wisor’s training class. Children should not be riding a machine that is too strong for the child’s age. Children should also never carry a passenger while they are driving an ATV.

“There were some instances when children were pinned under their ATVs because they were too small for the machine,” said John Taylor, chief deputy of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department.

Smaller engines help children to have enough control to operate their ATVs on elevated land, added Wisor.

“Many of the injuries to children are caused because the machine is either too strong or too large for children to operate,” he said. “Some of the injuries also occur because children often over look safety precautions.”

Any rider who is under the age of 16 is required to pass a training course in order to operate an ATV, according to Wisor.

The importance of appropriate attire while operating an ATV is also addressed in the course. Wisor says that all riders should wear an approved helmet, eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a longed-sleeve shirt or jacket.

“The equipment is very important because it protects the body if a rider were to fall off,” Wisor said. “The clothing is also very important because it helps prevent cuts on the body when riders go through wooded areas or brush or when rocks are kicked up by other ATVs.”

Wisor understands that many riders do not like wearing long-sleeved clothing in the warm weather months, but he says it is a precaution that should not be overlooked.

Volkosh recognizes that many ATV accidents are caused because common sense is not always practiced while riding an ATV.

“We urge all riders to become familiar with their surroundings and their equipment,” he said. “Riders should always use common sense as their guide. Riders should know at all times what their machine is capable of doing.”

The capabilities of ATVs are emphasized strongly during the training course. Wisor advises his riders against riding on paved surfaces or public roads, not to use excessive speeds and stay away from performing stunts on the ATV.

“ATV tires are made for riding on dirt and do not have enough air pressure to travel on paved surfaces,” Wisor said.

Low tire pressure while riding on paved surfaces could cause the ATV to roll over, according to Wisor.

Wisor also added that most ATVs are not designed for performing stunts on. ATV companies do produce special machines to race on but they are made for the experienced rider, he said.

Wisor’s course usually lasts two hours if the riders do not struggle with the machine.

“The course will take the time needed for riders to understand their machine before they go out on their own,” he said.

One of the main concerns of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department about ATV riders is the fact that there are many complaints about trespassing on private property.

“Many of the incidents we have seen have come from people who were trespassing,” said Taylor.

ATV riders trespassing is not limited to one specific part of the county and incidents occur throughout the county.

Although most courses take their riders out a hill to educate them on how to operate a machine on that terrain, Wisor does not believe that the hills are enough to learn on.

“I usually take my riders out on a higher grade hill,” he said, “because I want to teach them how to ride on a hill that can cause problems.”

By the numbers

• 207: The number of ATV deaths in New York between 1982 and 2001.

• 297: Number of deaths in California which leads the nation.

• 3,600: Number of Americans who have died in ATV related accidents between 2000 and 2005.

• 816: Of the 3,600 deaths, the number of children under 16 who have died.

• 714,500: Number of Americans who have sustained injuries while riding ATVs between 2000 and 2005.

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