August 27, 2013

In Maine, kids' safety on ATVs a rising concern

A string of recent crashes in Maine, including one that killed a 4-year-old boy, have put the focus on a growing, popular pastime.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Twelve-year-old Alyssa Lajoie leads the way during a ATV trail ride with her Dad, Jim Lajoie, and his passenger, brother Ian, age 8, near their Dayton home on Monday, August 26, 2013. Alyssa took the training class at age 10 with her mother and was certified to ride on public trails.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Jim Lajoie of Dayton points something out down the trail during a break while riding ATVs with his daughter Alyssa, 12, and son Ian, 8, on a trail near their home on Monday, August 26, 2013. Jim said that one of the benefits of ATV trail riding are the things you see along the way.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

MAINE ATV LAWS, RULES

• Children under 10 are not permitted to operate ATVs, except on their own property.

• Children between the ages of 10 and 16 must attend a training program with a parent or guardian to operate ATVs.

• ATV riders under 18 must wear a helmet.

• Private ATVs must be registered to be used off private property.

• ATVs may be operated on a public way only for the length of the distance necessary, not to exceed 500 yards.

• ATV riders must obtain permission before riding on the land of another, unless its a designated ATV trail.

The 2011 national report lists 327 ATV-related deaths. In 2007, the number was 890. The report says those figures should not be used for year-over-year comparisons because the post-2007 numbers are expected to increase as death reports continue to be compiled.

MacDonald said game wardens decide on a case-by-case basis whether to charge parents with violations when children are involved in ATV accidents.

"You have to use your discretion. Ultimately, the parents are responsible for their kids' actions, but if a kid goes outside their usual behavior you have to take that into account," he said. "Sometimes you may just have to hold the kid accountable."

On Saturday, a 4-year-old boy in East Machias was killed when a two-seat ATV rolled over on him.

The warden service said Roy Denison, 37, was riding a 2007 Yamaha Rhino 660 utility ATV with his son around his home and was joined by an 8-year-old nephew.

The nephew accidentally stepped on the accelerator and the ATV rolled over an embankment, then rolled over Wesley Keeton, 4, the 8-year-old's brother. Wesley was pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident remains under investigation. As of Monday, no one had been charged.

East Machias, in Down East Maine, is about 25 miles from the Canadian border. Lincoln is 50 miles north of Bangor.

ATV safety is also a topic of concern in the southern part of the state.

Bob Worden, president of the Saco ATV'ers Club, said that in his 45 years of off-roading, starting with dirt bikes, he has seen more young, inexperienced riders get overconfident in recent years.

"I'm totally for kids learning to ride at a young age. It's a good, healthy sport," Worden said. "But it's got to be done safely."

Worden said no one should ride without a helmet and no one younger than 16 should ride alone.

"The biggest problem these days is that the kids don't respect the trails the way we did. The trails can hurt you," Worden said. "They don't have the experience to brake when you need to and to throttle up when you have to."

At least one ATV dealer, Tidd's Sports Shop in the Aroostook County town of Hodgdon, has seen a sharp decline in traditional ATVs in recent years.

Rick Tidd said the shop sold fewer than 30 ATVs this year, compared with more than 100 larger utility ATVs, often called UTVs, with two or more seats side by side.

"Four-wheelers have really slowed down a bunch in the past couple years," Tidd said, referring to single-seat ATVs.

Tidd said he has seen an even sharper decline in sales of small-engine ATVs, traditionally targeting children.

Just as ATV sales once eclipsed sales of dirt bikes and snowmobiles, UTVs sales are now outpacing all the rest. 

Scott Dolan can be contacted at 791-6304 or at sdolan@pressherald.com 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Twelve-year-old Alyssa Lajoie leads the way during a ATV trail ride with her Dad, Jim Lajoie, and his passenger, brother Ian, age 8, near their Dayton home on Monday, August 26, 2013. Alyssa took the training class at age 10 with her mother and was certified to ride on public trails.

Carl D. Walsh / Staff Photographer

  


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