“Safety first, safety second and safety always” was the message presented to 40 youths who registered for the ATV safety course hosted by the Ponoka Agricultural Society May 19 at the Calnash Ag Event Centre.
One of the main lessons covered was helmet safety, also terrain safety, other necessary gear and emergency response. “Rollover safety and stuff like that,” explained event co-ordinator Annie Danilak.
The youths were shown the difference between a motorbike helmet and a proper ATV helmet. While a motorbike helmet is better than no helmet, the children were taught it only covers a portion of the head while the ATV helmet covers the entire head, face and also protects the jaw.
Each participant was also given a helmet, paid for by the Ag Society’s sponsorship funds. “Not only have we taught 40 kids ATV safety, we’ve put 40 new helmets into the community,” said Danilak.
The course covers the information in safety was well as get the youths riding the ATVs under supervision. This builds a strong foundation in safety, as there are participants who have never ridden an ATV before as well as those who know how to ride but need a better understanding of safety procedures, said Danilak.
She added there are youths who return to the course more than once as they age and their riding style changes, safety education is an ongoing journey.
“It’s very beneficial because we know they’re riding,” said Danilak, who added courses like the one held at the Ag Event Centre provide the stepping-stones to safe riding before bad habits can take hold.
Helmet safety was such a big focuses because it is hoped that the youths will relay the information to parents who grew up riding in an era where the rigid safety precautions were not taken as seriously.
According to Danilak, in Alberta, 80 per cent of the kids that ride are injured or killed from accidents in which they were not wearing a helmet. “Helmets are such a huge thing.”
She added youths also have a high number of accidents in the form of rollovers on flat ground due to speeding. “You need to know where you’re riding and slow down.”
Alberta is also the province with the second highest ATV rider population out of its total population, the first being Quebec. “Everybody’s riding them,” said Danilak.
The children taking part in the course were told it is up to them to take an active role in their own safety because on private land police and other similar authorities have no jurisdiction to help keep them safe.
ATV usage in Alberta is increasing, but Danilak couldn’t say with any certainty if the number of youth accidents were increasing, decreasing or staying relatively consistent.