Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Stay Safe and “Know Before You Go” Off-Road

(Salt Lake City, UT) – As thousands of Utahns head to the mountains and deserts for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation this summer, Utah State Parks and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) are reminding riders to “know before you go” by obeying Utah laws and wearing a helmet.  

UDOH data show that every year, an average of more than 1,800 Utahns are treated in emergency rooms or hospitalized for injuries suffered in OHV crashes. OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-road motorcycles. Nearly 14 Utahns die in OHV and snowmobile crashes each year.

“More than a third of the OHV-related injuries we see in Utah happen to young people under the age of 19,” said Jenny Johnson, spokesperson for the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

In 2009, there were 1,718 OHV-related injuries:
  • 328 (19%) were Utah children ages 14 and younger;
  • 329 (19%) were among teens ages 15-19;
  • 231 (13%) were adults ages 20-24;
  • 345 (20%) were adults ages 25-34; and
  • 485 (28%) were adults ages 35 and older.
The cost of treating these injuries exceeded $11 million in hospitalization and emergency department charges for 2009 alone.

Chris Haller, OHV Program Manager for Utah State Parks and Recreation, stresses the importance of staying within your riding limits. “OHVs aren’t toys. When handled improperly or beyond the driving abilities of the operator or manufacturer specifications, they can be deadly.”

Operators ages eight to 15 are required by law to take an OHV Safety Education class approved by Utah State Parks and Recreation and obtain their Utah OHV Safety Education Certificate before operating OHVs. It is illegal for any child under age eight to operate an OHV on public land. Drivers 16 years of age and older must have a valid driver’s license to operate.

“More than 45,000 Utahns have taken the OHV Safety Education classes. They are an invaluable teaching tool for young drivers and their parents,” said Haller. The classes focus on safety, handling, maintenance, and riding etiquette. Online OHV safety education courses are available at www.stateparks.utah.gov/ohv.

Helmets, having at least a U.S. Department of Transportation approved safety rating for motorized use, are required for all OHV operators and passengers under the age of 18. “Despite the law, we see people riding OHVs without helmets all too often,” said Johnson. “Helmets do save lives and are a must for riders of any age,” she added.

UDOH and State Parks officials recommend the following when enjoying OHVs:
  • Always wear a helmet and other safety gear. Other safety gear includes goggles or face shield, long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and boots that cover the ankles. 
  • Ride a machine that is the right size for you. Children should only ride OHVs that the manufacturer indicates are appropriate for their age. Riding a machine that is too big or too small is a major cause of crashes. Riders should be able to straddle the machine with a slight bend in the knees while both feet are on the footrests. Riders should be able to reach the controls while turning.
  • Always ride in control. Never attempt anything that is beyond your skill level or machine capability.
  • Only carry passengers if an OHV is specifically designed for it. Off-road motorcycles and most ATVs are designed to be ridden by only one person.
  • Don’t drive or ride on an OHV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For more safety tips, information on trails and riding conditions, and OHV Safety Education classes, contact the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation OHV Program at 801-538-RIDE or visit http://stateparks.utah.gov/ohv.

Media Contacts
Jenny Johnson, UDOH
(o) 801-538-9416 (m) 801-298-1569
Chris Haller
Utah State Parks and Recreation
(o) 801-349-0487