DNR Urges Safety First For All ATV Operators

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With five fatalities reported so far this year, state conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) remind both adult and youth all-terrain vehicle (ATV) operators to apply safety first when operating their machines.

“The public’s perception is that most ATV fatalities and accidents involve youths, but that’s really not the case,” said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “Recent DNR statistics show a decline in youth-involved incidents, largely due to safety training requirements for those age 16 and under. It’s the adults, those who have not completed DNR ATV safety training, who are most at risk.”

The most recent fatality, which occurred March 25, involved a 94-year-old man who was riding an ATV when he collided with a vehicle while crossing a Beltrami County highway in northern Minnesota. The ages of the other four fatalities so far this year were 21, 33, 37 and 56. Fourteen people, ranging from ages 7 to 76, were killed in ATV accidents last year in Minnesota.

Hammer said most ATV incidents occur in the road right-of-way where a valid driver’s license is required, or in ditch rollover accidents.

According to a recent DNR survey, the typical Minnesota ATV rider is a Caucasian male in his mid-40s with some college or technical training. He is most often employed full time, with an income more than $50,000 and an average family size of 2.8. It’s almost assured he has not completed a DNR ATV safety course.

“Because most adults are experienced automobile drivers, they think they possess the skills to handle a powerful, 600-pound ATV,” Hammer said. “But an ATV handles differently from other vehicles. A rollover can occur quickly, even during routine maneuvers such as turning and driving on hills and over obstacles, if a driver fails to take proper precautions.”

Hammer said adults are less likely to wear a helmet that could prevent head injuries, which are very common in ATV accidents. He recommends all adults complete the ATV safety training independent study course and wear a helmet.

Anyone born after July 1, 1987, who operates an ATV on public lands in Minnesota, must successfully complete the independent study ATV Safety Training CD course. Youth ages 11-15 must complete the ATV CD Course and riding component before riding on public lands. The ATV Training CDs are available by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

“ATVs may look like a fun toy, but they aren’t,” Hammer said. “Too many times adults and youths don’t understand the safety rules and regulations that govern their use.”

Hammer said safety training is a must for anyone who rides an ATV. “Understanding a few simple safety rules and knowledge of the regulations prevents accidents and reduces damage to trails.”

“ATVs are dangerous if you don’t respect them,” Hammer said. “You have to be trained. You have to know what you’re doing.”

 – Minnesota Department of Natural Resources –