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ATVs require good judgement

Late last week, the Benton County sheriff's department reported the death of a 19-year-old woman who was the passenger on an ATV that went out of control and hit a tree. It was a demonstration, as if another one were needed, about the need for ATV drivers and passengers to wear their helmets and to keep their heads on straight in a figurative sense.

The story from Benton County was utterly typical of summer-time news in Minnesota. The busy holiday weekend will probably have added some more ATV injuries and, perhaps, a death. What's clear is the fun vehicles are being driven without enough regard for the risks. We would never argue that people shouldn't enjoy the fun of ATVs, but we do believe they ought to be sensible about it. Helmets reduce off-road risks much like life jackets reduce boating risks; 99 percent of the time they're not needed, but when they are needed they are essential.

But even more useful than helmets is an understanding of the vehicles. Our sense is that unskilled and untrained riders think that little or no skill is required to navigate an ATV. And that may be true, at low speeds. At high speed, things change fast. We hope all Minnesotans will keep in mind that there's a narrow line between fun and danger, and that they'll stay on the right side or the line.

The last thing our state and the ATV industry need is more safety regulation. We have plenty of both. And the best way to keep the sport fun and relatively simple is for riders to use good judgment of their own accord. -- Fergus Falls Daily Journal