Independence Day weekend is coming up and many families will be out camping, fishing and participating in other outdoor activities.
Some of those activities may include ATVs and watercraft, in which North Dakota has seen some fatal accidents recently involving these vehicles– an 11-year-old in Cass County and a 10-year-old in Pembina County both died in ATV Wrecks.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 21 percent of all ATV wrecks in the United States are kids under the age of 16, and 9.5 percent being under the age of 12.
Some accidents are unavoidable, but in instances where they are, it’s best to know how to handle the situation. That’s why North Dakota Parks and Rec requires kids ages 12-15 to take a safety class for riding vehicles on public land. If they do not have this certification, they could be fined by the Parks and Rec Department.
“So there’s two options that folks can do when they access our website. One is to go take an online course where the youth can sit within their home and on their computer and take an online course and it generates a certificate that authorizes them to use their OHV on public lands. The second and my favorite because we get that engagement with the public is the hands-on course. And so we have a series of about 12 mini ATV’s that we teach youth from age 12 to 15 on and like I said those are courses that we host across different parts of the state throughout the summer,” said North Dakota Parks and Rec Motorized Recreation Coordinator Tony Hillig.
While they may not be driving the regular pick up truck or minivan, the same principals apply to ATVs.
“Ride within your capabilities. First, kind of understand the terrain where you’re riding, get familiar with the terrain. Understand your machine, be familiar with your machine. And make sure you’re following the manufacturer recommended age limits on machines. An adult machine is not designed for a youth that’s 12 years old,” said Hillig.
In the summer, boats and Jet Skis are very popular as well. But they can be just as hazardous if the driver doesn’t know how to properly operate the vehicle. North Dakota Game and Fish provides a similar class for watercraft.
“In North Dakota youth that are 12 to 15 years of age have to have taken a boat and water safety course to be able to operate a motorboat of more than 10 horsepower by themselves. So whether it’s the take-home book or the online testing it will all cover different aspects of the boat, required safety equipment, navigational lightings, rules of the road just like on the pavement we have rules of the road on the water,” said North Dakota Game and Fish Game Warden Supervisor Jackie Lundstrom.
And of course it’s always best to wear your helmet or life jacket when driving these kinds of vehicle.