WVU expert warns of unnecessary ATV deaths

Journalists: Video soundbites below.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –  In December a West Virginia mother faced child neglect charges stemming from an all-terrain vehicle wreck in which her two-year-old son was hurt. Also last year, a man died when two ATVs crashed on a public roadway in McDowell County. The state’s 35 ATV-related deaths could be much lower if state lawmakers would take action, says Jim Helmkamp, Ph.D., director of the West Virginia University Injury Control Research Center.

“ATV riding is a risky behavior,” Helmkamp says. “Unfortunately, West Virginia is one of the more dangerous places to ride an ATV. If lawmakers adopted measures that pro-safety advocates and even the manufacturers have lobbied for, we could at least ban ATVs from all paved roads.”

Currently in West Virginia, all-terrain vehicles must stay off roads with a centerline stripe or roads of more than two lanes, Helmkamp explains. This creates a dangerous scenario because a quarter of the population in West Virginia rides ATVs, studies show. Some 15 percent of people who die are passengers, and many of these are teenage girls between 12 and 15 years old. 

On the positive side, safety messages are reaching the public, and the number of deaths is going down, he says. “But the number of deaths is still too high.”

Helmkamp, who has been studying the problem at the WVU Injury Control Research Center for 11 years, suggests:

  • Even if helmets aren’t required by law, people should wear them because they reduce the severity of a head injury
  • Parents must understand that many ATVs were not designed for passenger use – check with the manufacturer to be sure
  • Stay clean and sober – some 30 percent of the deaths in West Virginia over the last three to four years have involved alcohol or drugs

He further urges that ATVs should never be ridden on paved roads, streets and highways where they are unsafe. 

“ATVs have huge, spongy tires that don’t grip hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete,” he says. “They were not designed to be compatible with pavement.  Many of the worst accidents that occur on roads involve collisions with other vehicles, rolling off the road, hitting trees, rocks or telephone poles.”

Journalists: Contact us for broadcast-quality versions of these three soundbites from Dr. Helmkamp. 304-293-7087





For more information:
Andrea Brunais, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 1-28-09

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