11-year-old ATV death shines light on safe riding

ATV riders must wear safety gear and drive responsibly before having fun.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – When you drive a car, both adults and teens, should put a seat belt on first and then drive within the speed limit.  Those restrictions are put in place to keep you safe and that’s exactly the case with safely riding an ATV.

NewsChannel 6 is shining a spotlight on how to safely ride an all-terrain vehicle following the death of 11-year-old Ashton Andrews, of Wilkes County.  Georgia State Patrol reported he attempted to make a left turn, causing the ATV to roll to the right.  Andrews was thrown from the ATV as it rolled and he wasn’t wearing a helmet or eye protection.

When you walk into Street and Trail on Washington Road in Evans, the fleet of ATVs are big, beautiful and can be a lot of fun, but just how safe are they?

“I think an ATV is a very safe situation as long as you do what you’re supposed to do and ride the machine for what it’s built for,” said David Heath, the store’s General Manager.

Heath told us it’s all in the operator. Many times, he said, parents purchase ATVs and ignore the age restrictions.  Some of the recreation vehicles recommend not allowing anyone under the age of 16 or even 10.

“It is not a bulldozer. It is not a tractor. It is not designed to push stuff over,” Heath said, emphasizing that there is a proper way to ride.

“When you buy an ATV, Consumer Product and Safety Commission has guidelines set to where you can take a training course.”  Heath added that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers riding classes.

Sadly, many people don’t take those courses and instead, Heath said they ride just like their parents, which may be entirely wrong or too fast and too furious.

Dr. Jedidiah Ballard, who works for the AU Medical Center E.R., told us “Sometimes they’re taking them on a high way and it might be a high-speed wreck on concrete. Other times they’re going slow with it going over very rough terrain so it’s more of a low-speed and sometimes the ATV will roll on top of them.”

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that between 1982 and 2015 there were a total of 417 deaths related to ATVs in Georgia and in South Carolina there were 181. Dr. Ballard said he sees different types of ATV related injuries in the emergency room a few times a month.

“Some of them are real serious. It flips over. We’ll get spinal cord injuries causing paralysis. Brain bleeds especially if they’re not wearing a helmet,” he said.

Everything that you put on before you ride an ATV is designed to protect you if you hit the ground while it’s in motion. Your helmet helps protect your head and this one even protects your teeth. You can wear gloves to protect your fingers, a jacket, which is designed to protect your elbows. You can even add a chest protector to keep you safe along with knee pads and very high shoes. If you don’t look like this when you’re riding an ATV, you may want to reconsider.

“If you were to get one piece, the helmet is by far the best,” according to Dr. Ballard.

Just like in a car, you have to drive an ATV properly.  If you speed you can hurt yourself or worse.  Where you ride is important too.  Heath said if your yard is only a half an acre, then riding an ATV there is probably unsafe.

Nearly a decade ago, the number of ATV injuries among children and teens were high. More recent statistics show the number of ATV related deaths among children and adults too have decreased.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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