ATV deaths: As mercury rises, off-road vehicle fatalities do, too

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So far this year, five Utahns have died in ATV accidents, including former Rep. Bill Orton, who was riding down a steep sand dune when his vehicle flipped forward on April 18. The past two weekends have been particularly deadly, as ATV accidents killed a man riding with his wife in Juab County, a woman who rolled her ATV near Panguitch Lake, a man riding near Mount Pleasant and another man in Tooele County. A 9-year-old boy also was critically injured last weekend when his 12-year-old brother backed over him with an ATV.

Average ATV deaths in Utah grew from 5.2 a year from 1982-2004 to 10.7 a year in 2005-07. The age of those who died has steadily grown from 16 in the 1980s to 27 in the next decade and 36 since the year 2000.

Meanwhile, the number of registered ATVs in the state has shot up from 68,542 in 2005 to 96,237 in 2008.

ATV safety rules

Protect yourself » Always wear a helmet and other protective gear. Wearing a helmet can prevent 80 percent of injuries and fatalities caused by ATVs.

Keep on track » Ride only on designated trails, and at a safe speed. Never ride on public roads where another vehicle could hit you.

A clear head » Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Watch your weight » Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.

Know your limits » Ride an ATV appropriate for your age. Supervise riders younger than 16.

Get a license » Utah law requires riders ages 8 to 16, who do not have driver licenses, to take certified courses before they can legally ride. Find a course by calling 800-887-2887, or go to

Reporting by Tom Wharton and Anne Wilson. Sources: ATV Safety Institute; Utah state law; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; Utah Medical Examiner.

Common causes of ATV accidents

Too much power » Riding an ATV that is too large or powerful for the rider's skill level, such as children riding machines designed for adults. The fact that ATVs are growing larger and more powerful only exacerbates mistakes.

Too challenging » Venturing into terrain beyond the driver's skill level and the vehicle's capability. Riders can get into trouble on steep and rocky slopes if they don't know how to shift their weight, a common cause of rollovers.

Overloaded ATVs » Two people on a vehicle designed for one. Too much weight can cause the vehicle to roll.

Drugs & alcohol » Riding while impaired by drugs or alcohol.

Unfamiliar terrain » Riding on unfamiliar terrain. This is a common cause of accidents at Little Sahara Sand Dunes, which sees about 320,000 visitors every year, said Lisa Reid, a BLM spokeswoman in Fillmore.