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Rash of local ATV accidents has DNR reminding riders of safety

With warmer weather comes ATV riding season, a fun pastime or easy way to get to that secluded hunting or fishing spot. However, the DNR reminds riders to use proper precautions and follow the protocol for operating off-road vehicles.

Over the past week there have been three reported ATV accidents in White Earth, two of which included minors and one of which ended in a fatality.

According to police records, on May 28th at approximately 4:11 p.m. the Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call of a 4-wheeler crash about 17 miles east of the city of Mahnomen. The Mahnomen Sheriff Office, White Earth Police Department and the Mahnomen Ambulance responded. The victim, identified as Molly Bartos, 22, of Waubun, was taken to the Mahnomen Health Center, where she died from her injuries.

On May 28 at 1:46 p.m., officers responded to an ATV accident, which included an adult male and a male child on East Juggler Road. The adult sustained a leg injury, and the child received no serious injuries.

On May 22, an ATV rollover near Ogema injured three teens.

The causes of these crashes are still under investigation.

John Paurus, education programs coordinator for the DNR Division of Enforcement, said ATV accidents tend to be caused by a number of different things, but speed is definitely an issue.

“Most of the injuries associated are from rollovers,” Paurus said, which may be caused by inexperienced drivers or excessive speeds.

These off-road vehicles, since they are designed for trails and rough terrain, are not meant to be driven at high speeds. Paurus says taking an ATV to excessive speeds could mean a simple turn or hitting a rut could cause a rollover, which may prove fatal.

Standard operating procedures

When riding an ATV do not speed.

“Never operate an off-highway vehicle at a speed greater than what is reasonable under all of the surrounding circumstances or greater than the posted speed limit on any public lands, waters, trails, or public road rights-of-way. Watch for and obey speed limit signs posted on trails,” according to the DNR safety regulations.

Watch for road signs and keep an eye on the terrain on trails.

According to the DNR state regulations, “temporary road and trail closures may be needed due to spring thaw, trail repairs, heavy rains, logging or public safety concerns. Closures are unpredictable; always check mndnr.gov/ohv before you ride!”

Remember that all trails are designated for two-way traffic unless otherwise specified.

When entering a trail, yield to all trail traffic.

Also remember to yield to non-motorized persons, and shut off the engine of the vehicle when meeting a horse until the animal and rider have passed or until waved on.

Use caution when crossing public roads. Make a direct crossing by coming to a complete stop and looking both ways, yielding to all traffic and crossing the road at a 90 degree angle. Only cross two-lane highways at an intersection.

Keep the agricultural zone in mind.

“The Minnesota agricultural zone is the area lying south and west of a line formed by the following highway rights-of-way: starting at the North Dakota border, the line goes east along U.S. Highway 10 to State Highway 23, then follows Highway 23 east to State Highway 95 to the Wisconsin border. The agricultural zone does not include the rights-of-way of these boundary highways, and applies only to Class 1 ATV use,” according to the DNR safety regulations. “You may not drive an ATV in the right-of-way (ditch) of a state or county road from April 1 to August 1 in the agricultural zone.”

Watch for other government regulations and ordinances.

Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and may result in fines, jail time, forfeiture of the ATV and loss of license.

Make sure your ATV vehicle is registered, and the drivers are certified. A valid driver’s license is required to operate an ATV on public roads.

Adults 18 years of age and older may carry one passenger on a class 1 ATV or if riding a class 2 ATV, the number of passengers that the class 2 ATV was designed to carry.

Minors and ATV’s

The DNR urges riders to remember that one size does not fit all: “If you are under 16, you must be able to properly reach and control the handlebars and reach the footpegs while sitting upright on the machine to operate an ATV on public lands or water, or on state or grant-in-aid trails.”

There should be a minimum of three inches between the operator and the ATV seat to maintain balance, which prevents the operator from being thrown off the machine.

While seated, the operator’s upper legs should be horizontal with the ground.

While gripping the handle bar and seated on the vehicle, there should be a distinct bend in the elbow. Also, the first joint of the fingers should reach beyond the brake lever.

All minors are required to wear a helmet approved by the Department of Transportation (one that displays DOT) and safety goggles when operating on public lands.

Safety Training

The Minnesota DNR offers safety training for anyone age 11 and up. Students age 11 through 15 must complete the MN ATV safety training online before signing up for a hands-on ATV class. The fee for the online course is $29.50 at Offroad-ed.com or ATVcourse.com.

The minors will then go through hands-on training, which includes a “ride day” on an obstacle course where they get to simulate what riding on rough terrain is like. This process is much like getting a driver’s license and is required for certification.

Certification is required for all ATV operators who were born after July 1, 1987 before operating the vehicle on public lands, frozen waters, public road rights-of-way or state or grant-in-aid trails. Youth age 12-15 may only ride their own vehicle on a public roadway if certified and accompanied by an adult.

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