CHESTERTOWN - Several dozen North Warren Middle School students learned recently safe operation of all-terrain vehicles isn't limited to limiting the speed and staying alert, but it involves choices before a rider even gets onto one of the machines.
During the last week of October, the seventh and eighth grade students of North Warren Central participated in a 4-H all-terrain vehicle safety program conducted by Warren County Cooperative Extension staff. The focus of the program's two sessions was to educate youth regarding safety practices, sound decision-making, and taking responsibility when using an ATV.
Through the program, the students learned that safe operation can depend on a rider choosing an ATV of appropriate size and power to match their stature, Extension agent John Bowe said.
The program was delivered in two sessions. The first session was a classroom session where youth read a news article about a student their age who suffered permanent brain damage after crashing an ATV while riding down a paved, residential road. The students correctly identified what state laws the youth would have broken if the accident occurred in Chestertown - breaking the speed limit, not wearing a helmet, and riding an ATV on a paved, public roadway.
The students had some hands-on experience to figuratively drive their lessons home - most of them rode ATVs on the school's former baseball field in a second session.
Students who chose to ride selected one of the two ATVs, either a 90cc which is recommended for this age group or a 250cc model which is sized for larger teens.
Cooperative Extension leaders explained many students who are taller or heavier at this age, or 12 to 14 years old, actually create a safety hazard by riding the smaller class ATVs that are generally recommended for them.
Students were asked first to perform basic starting and stopping techniques, and then to navigate a short set of cones. A portion of the pupils traversed a simulated trail, two ATVs at a time. Also reviewed was the importance of maintaining distance between the ATVs and looking through turns or corners to avoid traffic or obstacles.
Those seeking information about ATV safety for youth or about the 4-H programs are welcome to call Warren County Cornell Cooperative Extension at 623-3291.