Safety leaders ramp up OHV awareness in anticipation of busy Pioneer Day holiday

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Dozens of people are expected to hit Utah’s trails this Pioneer Day weekend. That’s why U of U Health and the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation are ramping up ATV safety efforts.

Riders revved up their off-highway vehicles, or OHVs, under the watchful eye of the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. Teachers offer a safety training class where they go over riding techniques and help maneuver riders safely through an obstacle course.

In Utah, riders between ages 8-15 are required to pass this course before they ride on public land.

While OHVs are fun, they can be deadly. Already this year, there have been 4 OHV deaths in Utah, according to the U of U hospital. On average, there are 14 fatalities each year in Utah.

A trend doctors are seeing is that more adults are hurt in OHV-related accidents than children are. The average age of patients with ATV-related injuries is 39 to 40 years old.

“Probably the most devastating injuries we see in relation to blunt accidents are head injuries, brain injuries,” said Dr. Toby Ennis, U of U Associate Trauma Director.

From 2014-2016, doctors reported 166 ATV injuries, which accounts for 3% of all trauma-related injuries.

“It is heart wrenching from our standpoint because it is so easily preventable,” Dr. Ennis said.

Doctors say in addition to proper training, wearing protective gear is key.

Studies show wearing a helmet reduces the risk of brain injury.

“58 percent of registered owners across the state wear their helmets, we would love to see that increase ever so slightly this year to go up 65 percent,” said Chris Haller, OHV program coordinator for Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation.

While children 17 or younger are required to wear helmets on public land, Utah does not have mandatory helmet laws for motorcycles. Haller calls on adults to lead by example.

“We still want you to go out and have fun, but we want you to make sure you're wearing the proper protective gear when you have that fun because we want you to come back," Haller said.

ATV, motorcycle, and snowmobile safety courses can be accessed online via the state parks' website.