OGDEN, Utah (AP) — The majority of kids using all-terrain vehicles in Utah hit the dirt without learning safety rules, state parks officials say.
The findings have Utah State Parks and health officials stepping up their efforts to educate parents and children who enjoy ATV riding. The importance of the issue has been in the spotlight following the death last week of a 9-year-old boy in Trementon.
"It becomes very personal when I see these kids coming into the hospital and it's something that can be prevented," said Janet Brooks, Primary Children's Hospital Child Advocacy manager.
Utah State Parks officials say only 38 percent of younger riders obtain proper certification for using ATVs, according to the Standard-Examiner in Ogden. Chris Haller, manager of the Parks and Recreation off-highway vehicle program, said 83 percent of registered OHV owners know about the education program on riding safety that's required for children under 16, so the small number of young riders getting certified is cause for alarm, Haller said.
"Why is there such a huge gap there? We don't know," Haller said. "We think part of this education program competes with a number of other things."
State Parks and Recreation's education program is a joint effort with children's health care providers such as Primary Children's Hospital. Their efforts include more outreach and certification opportunities. On Saturday, Haller and Brooks held a training course for five people, between the ages of 8 and 15, at the Weber County Fairgrounds sponsored by the Weber-Morgan Health Department.
"We know that these kids are out on our public lands," Haller told The Salt Lake Tribune. "What we want to do is give them a skill set so that they become comfortable operating the ATVs.
In the case of the 9-year-old boy, he was riding an ATV with a 16-year-old when it crashed Thursday. Neither boy was wearing a helmet, authorities said.
"My heart goes out to the family," Haller said. "I take that on personally. Have we done all we can?"