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Wisconsin ATV riders at risk for fatal accidents, experts say

As the weather warms in the La Crosse area, the number of people engaged in recreational activities such as boating, motorcycle riding and all-terrain vehicle use also goes up. There are safety measures which can be taken, such as wearing life jackets or helmets -- but not everyone follows safety guidelines.

For ATV riders in Wisconsin, a license is required and children under the age of 12 are not permitted to operate an ATV independently. However, riders are frequently younger than that. Experts have indicated that the increased use of ATVs for farming and for recreational uses has resulted in an increase in fatal accidents.

According to news sources, five children were treated for ATV injuries at a Lafayette County hospital in the past two months and a 9-year-old boy was fatally injured. The Safe Kids Coalition reported that approximately 130 children die and 40,000 children are seriously injured in accidents related to ATV use.

One cannot assume that all of these children were operating the ATVs. Many of them were probably passengers. If a passenger is injured in an ATV accident due to negligence, such as speed or unsafe operation, the injured passenger could hold the operator liable for damages including pain and suffering. If these are family members riding together, civil litigation may not be pursued.

A current gap in Wisconsin state law does not require any training or safety equipment for children operating ATVs on family farms. It was not reported how many of the injuries in Wisconsin occurred on farms, compared to recreational injuries.

Some believe that the ATV operator law should be the same age as for driving a car -- 16 years old -- due to the physical and mental requirements of safe operation. It seems clear that the risk is present in either case.

Source: HaywardWI.com, "UW Health reports increased number of ATV injuries," May 10, 2012

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