After a long, snowy winter, we are finally starting to catch a glimpse of the warmer months ahead. As we start to see signs of spring and head outdoors more often, it is important to take precautions to stay safe, especially when riding on off-road vehicles.
In our area, many Hoosiers enjoy exploring on all-terrain vehicles like four wheelers, mini bikes, dirt bikes, go-karts and utility vehicles. While these machines can be used for recreational activities, they can also be extremely dangerous if not operated properly and if certain safety measures are not followed. This is especially true with children.
In 2016, there were 22 deaths resulting from off-road vehicle accidents, and in a majority of these cases, the victims were not wearing helmets. To help reduce this number and protect the lives of young Hoosiers, last year I co-authored legislation requiring helmets for children operating off-road vehicles. The purpose of this legislation was to bring awareness to proper safety precautions and educate younger generations on the importance of wearing helmets.
Since the law went into effect in July 2017, there have not been any ATV-related deaths of children under the age of 18. This is an incredible statistic and something that we all want to continue.
In addition to wearing a helmet, there are other steps Hoosiers can take to have a safer ride. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources website offers many helpful resources, like a handbook of off-road vehicle laws and safe operating procedures, video demonstrations of ATV safety tips, and general information on motorized recreation.
The handbook provided by the DNR covers what to know before riding, a list of essential safety gear, a code of safety, and many more tips on how to protect yourself and others while behind the wheel of an ATV.
On the website, Hoosiers can also find the official Indiana off-road vehicle safety course. While the course is not required to operate an ATV, it contains valuable information covering safe off-roading practices. All of this information and more can be found online at www.in.gov/dnr. Let’s do what we can to stay safe while enjoying all that southwest Indiana has to offer. I