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Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic Collaborate to Promote ATV Safety

As part of a broad farm safety initiative, Virginia Tech Environmental Health and Safety has teamed up with Carilion Clinic to advocate for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety, particularly in rural communities.

This collaboration is part of a shared mission to reduce the rise in ATV-related injuries and fatalities, which have surged by more than 30 percent since 2021.

The daily topic of focus on Sept. 18 was “Equipment and Rural Roadway Safety” as part of this year’s National Farm Safety and Health Week, which ran Sept. 17-23, making it the ideal occasion to emphasize the need for ATV safety awareness. The statistics are sobering: The average hospital stay for somone injured while riding an ATV is more than seven days, and the hospital bill for such accidents averages $127,000.

Ottilia Lewis, Carilion Clinic’s trauma outreach coordinator, said, “We have seen an increase in not only the incidence of ATV-related trauma but also the severity of injuries seen. As the region’s only Level 1 trauma center for both adults and pediatric patients, our focus extends beyond treating injuries. We are involved in education and injury prevention efforts to ensure that people of all ages know how to use these vehicles responsibly and in a safe manner.”

One of the key findings that amplifies the urgency of this issue is that only 10.3 percent of adult ATV riders treated for injuries were wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. Equally concerning is the fact that children make up a third of the patients injured on ATVs.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of following safety guidelines while operating an ATV,” said Lee Watson, health and safety trainer for Environmental Health and Safety. “Wearing a helmet, riding at a safe speed, avoiding steep and side slopes, and using the right-sized machine can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. Moreover, following the ‘one person, one ATV’ rule and refraining from riding on public or paved roads is crucial for everyone’s safety.”

In Virginia, the laws governing ATV usage are clear:

  • Operators must be 16 or older to operate an ATV with an engine over 90cc displacement.
  • Helmets are mandatory for all ATV riders.
  • Passengers are only allowed if the ATV is designed and equipped for more than one rider.
  • ATVs should not be driven on public roads except in designated areas.

This collaboration between Environmental Health and Safety at Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic aims to raise awareness about these laws and educate the public about responsible ATV usage. By working together, they hope to reverse the alarming trend of ATV-related injuries and ensure that the upcoming generations can enjoy the rural landscapes of Virginia safely.

  • Stephanie Overton

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