First Posted: 1/15/2009
LUMBERTON - Parents would not hand a child a loaded weapon to play with, yet that is what most mothers and fathers do when they give children all-terrain vehicles, according to Jimo Ibrahim, an agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Ibrahim shared that message Saturday with about 150 people at the Southeastern N.C. Agricultural Center/Farmers Market. The extension service is conducting a statewide campaign to increase awareness about ATV safety, especially among the young.
“People think an ATV is very simple to operate … it's more difficult than driving a car,” Ibrahim said.
North Carolina ranked 10th in the nation for ATV deaths in 2005. Ibrahim didn't have up-to-date records on Robeson County, but an archive search at The Robesonian showed there have been at least three ATV-related deaths in the last two years.
Ibrahim blames parents.
“We are here today mostly for parents because they buy the ATVs, but don't buy proper gear,” he said. “One size doesn't fit all. An 8-year-old has no mental capability to control the ATV.”
Between 2002 and 2005, 103 people died in North Carolina while riding ATVs. Sixty-two of those where children under 16. Nationally, 467 people died from ATV accidents and there were about 136,700 injuries in 2005, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Just last week, there was an ATV-related death in Alamance County. Ibrahim said he receives calls almost every month about an ATV death in North Carolina.
“That is what prompted us to be more up front in this awareness program,” said Ibrahim, who has traveled to Asheville, Raleigh, Greensboro and Wilmington in the last month trying to raise awareness.
The current law states anyone younger than 8 years old cannot operate an ATV. It also sets restrictions on children ages 8 to 16 and restricts the equipment a rider must use.
But Ibrahim says there are too many exceptions to the law. For example, the law's “provisions do not apply to owners, operators, lessors, or renters of a farm or ranch, or to their employees or household members, when operating an ATV during farming operations; or to those operating an ATV for hunting or trapping purposes.”
“This law is very clumsy,” he said. “If I were to propose the law, you'd have to show your certification before purchasing an ATV. I hope it will not go to the level where more people have to die before we amend it.”
Ibrahim said requiring safety certification would help. Right now, it costs $150 to get an ATV safety certification, but the Cooperative Extension is working with the ATV Safety Institute so agents can provide free safety courses and certification to the public. This would include eight hours of in-class education and five hours of outdoor, hands-on education.
“When you kill your child, what more can you do?” he said.