West's ATV carnage, part 2


At least 13 people have been killed in all-terrain-vehicle accidents in the West in the past month. The fatalities include a 10-year-old boy in California, a 16-year-old girl in Wyoming, and an off-duty sheriff's deputy in Utah.

Expanding the bloody accounting to include the serious nonfatal ATV accidents in the same period (since April 20), the victims include a 9-year-old boy with head injuries and a man who lost his right hand ...

This carnage follows an especially noticeable ATV death in Utah on April 18, which I covered in an earlier post on this blog: A likable "political maverick," Bill Orton, drove his ATV over a drop-off, crashed and died in the famous Little Sahara dunes playground. Orton served three terms in Congress (1990-1996) and his death is considered "a great loss" for his state.

The 13 ATV deaths since then, and the serious nonfatal injuries, are more evidence of how the sport needs safety regulations and a consistently responsible leadership.

Often the accident victims are kids who are driving or riding. Often the victims are not wearing helmets. Often their accidents demonstrate the instability of ATVs.

Yet the industry -- manufacturers and dealers -- and the sport's leaders often resist attempts to require helmets and a reasonable minimum age for driving ATVs. Instead, they often glamorize ATVs with gung-ho thrill-guaranteeing ads, event promotions and news stories.

In Utah, for example, the age limit is this weak: "No one under 8 may operate an ATV on public lands," according to a federal ATV safety website.

You'll see the pattern in this list of the dead and some of the seriously injured:

(Note: Some of the linked stories report several accidents, so you might need to scroll down in a story to see the accident I've mentioned.)



May 9: An off-duty deputy, Paul Robison, 57, was killed in another crash in Little Sahara, when his ATV flipped and pinned him.

May 10: A 32-year-old woman, Juliejo Ann Jackson, was killed while turkey hunting with her husband -- the ATV rolled and she wasn't wearing a helmet.

May 16: David Barber, 46, was killed in an ATV wreck in the Knolls Recreation Area, while not wearing a helmet. He "hit a dirt embankment and the ATV went airborne."

May 16: Mark Mattenson, 50, was killed when his ATV rolled on a dirt road near Mount Pleasant.


April 20: A 16-year-old girl, Lena Barkman, was killed in an ATV crash near Lingle. She was reportedly going about 30 mph, hit a depression and got thrown as the ATV flipped twice. She also wasn't wearing a helmet.


May 16: Benjamin Clements, 34, was killed in an ATV crash in the Pickles Butte off-road recreation area near Nampa. "Investigators believe Clements lost control of the ATV coming down a hill. He was ejected … and the ATV rolled over him. … He leaves behind a wife and three children …"


April 26: A 10-year-old boy, Baltazar Bradley Barron, who was riding in an ATV with two young men near Moreno Valley, was killed when the ATV flipped … the driver was "trying to power the ATV up a steep hill when its front tires lifted off of the terrain and flipped over backwards" and rolled down to the bottom of the hill.

May 15: A 72-year-old woman, Joann Lesico, was killed "when an all-terrain vehicle rolled on top of her while she was working with her husband outside their rural Livermore home … the woman's 96-year-old husband was driving the vehicle while she stood on the side distributing hay for cattle. It is believed he went up an embankment and the vehicle rolled on top of them."

May 17: "Two men were killed while riding dirt bikes and quads in a dry lake bed in El Mirage ... William Andrew Silvestre (37 years old) was riding his Yamaha 350 quad west in a dry lake bed when he hit a berm, rolled his quad and was ejected ... he was pronounced dead at the scene at 1:47 a.m. ... (Then) at 1:11 a.m., John Peter Sliskovich (25 years old) was riding north in the dry lake bed on a ... dirt bike when he hit a berm and was thrown ... (he) was not wearing a helmet (and) was pronounced dead at 2:11 a.m."


May 1: Brian Matthew Roth, 44, was killed when his ATV ran off a road near Ranier ... "alcohol and speed are both believed to be contributing factors."

New Mexico

April 28: Kenneth Duncan, 19, was killed near Lake Arthur when he "lost control of the ATV (as) it landed from a jump … the vehicle rolled end over end, throwing him off."


May 20: A 16-year-old girl suffered major head trauma in a crash of two ATVs driven by 17-year-old boys near New River ... the boys "were reportedly following each other on the ATVs at high speeds (45 to 50 mph) when one boy stopped, causing the other boy to crash into the back of (the first) ATV" ... the girl, a passenger, was thrown off with so much force that her helmet came off ... she died while being flown to a hospital.



May 3: Simon A. Rose, 23, was hospitalized due to a crash in the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area -- he was "coming down a steep slope when the front end of his ATV dug into the sand, flipping him over the front and driving him into the ground … apparently suffering … neck and back injuries."

May 9: Samuel K. Waderich, 44, was driving an ATV on a logging road near Dixonville "when he lost control and plummeted down a 400-foot embankment … (he) was not wearing a helmet … (he) passed out and did not wake until after dark. Suffering from head, neck, chest and back pain, he then crawled about halfway up the embankment until he could go no further, and started yelling for help." Rescuers roped down to pull him off the slope, and he was hospitalized in serious condition.

May 9: A 25-year-old man was driving an ATV "at high speeds," lost control and crashed on a street near Roseburg. He also was not wearing a helmet. He was taken by ambulance to a Portland hospital, then released.


May 3: A 37-year-old man "lost his right hand after his dune buggy rolled up to a dozen times down Sand Mountain at the Little Sahara Recreation Area."

May 10: A 30-year-old woman broke both her legs in crash in sand dunes, and a 50-year-old woman (not wearing a helmet) was injured when her ATV rolled on her while she tried to drive it up a steep hill.

May 17: A 52-year-old Florida man was seriously injured when he "apparently lost control of the (ATV) and it rolled several times."

May 18: A 9-year-old boy suffered serious injuries to his head and torso when his 12-year-old brother backed an ATV up over him in the family's garage. The boy was reported hospitalized in critical condition.

who's the victim?
May 22, 2009 12:32 PM
ATV's are dangerous, plain and simple. If you choose to ride you take the risk. Parents who let their kids ride un-accompanied are taking a risk with their children. You want to reduce risk? Wear a helmet and drive slower and more responsibly. It is not the manufacturers fault that people are being irresponsible with their products. Regulate the industry? Nah, that is just because it is too hard to regulate the idiots.
ATVs inherently dangerous
May 23, 2009 10:46 PM
I think ATVs are inherently dangerous in addition to fostering a false sense of security in inexperienced riders. Being on 4 wheels makes riders feel more secure than they would on the 2 wheels of a motorcycle. It's those 4 wheels and the resulting blocky overall shape that causes ATVs to tumble like large deadly dice when pushed beyond their dynamic limits. As inherently dangerous as motorcycles are, they have much less propensity to roll on top of operators in an accident. Novice riders also aren't lulled into a false sense of stability by setting securely on 4 wheels while sitting still, only discover that an ATV has all the stability of thrown dice once it's up to speed.
May 26, 2009 05:31 PM
A co-worker of mine lost a son in an ATV accident several years ago, and just a couple years ago another coworker broke her back in a rollover. Both in the same general location. You would think that knowing the risk might prevent the activity, but this, like so many other outdoor activities, carries a sense of danger that appears to be part of the "fun"; like skydiving, rock climbing, base jumping, backpacking in a wilderness full of bears or wolves or cougar, or even just driving your car down the interstate (or motorcycle). Life is dangerous. People may be against the activity because of the resource damage it causes, and there is a genuine need to develop a better way to manage that overall. But do not confuse the lack of regulation and safety training with the impact - people know they can die. Yes - more universal regulation is needed - across the board. There are some real yahoos out there that will destroy what could be a good experience with the right education and training. We even require a certification process at work, even if an employee has been riding for years.
Some states do have age minimums, and that seems to reduce the adverse affects to children. That is one action that State regulators need to take up immediately. No child under the age of 16 should be allowed to operate an ATV of any kind. 4w ATV or dirtbike - young children simply do not have the ability to make those kinds of informed rational decisions that are life or death.
Pat Flanagan
Pat Flanagan
Jun 22, 2009 08:13 PM
I would agree that no child under the age of 16 should be allowed to operate an ATV of any kind. Children are not allowed to drive cars until they are at least 16 (some states 18, I believe)for demonstated reasons. Even when old enough, considerable training with an adult is required to get a license. Yet, the high accident rate for juvenile drivers attests that the ability to make correct decisions is still climbing an upward slope. Nonetheless, parents of children under 6 years old take pride in putting their children on ATVs solo. In other circulstances (like a different planet) the parents would be arrested for child endangerment -- even if the child survived. Several Sunday's ago I was driving out the dirt road I live on and passed a child under 10 riding on his own, no parent or older rider anywhere in sight (the law requires adult supervision of minor drivers at all times). The child was none to steady on his wheels. He was going west into open desert, no water jug attached as far as I could tell. If he didn't come home, would anyone have known where to look for him? If his unsteady vehicle flipped, how long would he wait for help? Would it come in time? I am haunted by this lonly rider with his skinny arms working for control. Did anyone even know he'd gone out for a spin? Did anyone care? I can hear the response, "Get a life lady."
Regulation? No way, bring back Natural selection.
Jason Stevenson
Jason Stevenson
Jan 24, 2010 12:25 AM
The Law of Natural selection is a great thing. It angers me that so many people believe we should "regulate", "protect", etc. people from themselves and their own stupidity.

I am a long term rider of ATVs, Motorcycles, and anything else with an engine. But me, my wife, and my two boys all wear proper riding apparel, safety goggles, and helmets. ALWAYS.

If you choose not to, and you die, then thats one less idiot clogging up my trails...
Cost of ATV injuries and deaths
Charlotte Hutt
Charlotte Hutt
Apr 25, 2010 09:43 PM
Thanks for collecting these news events. I am looking for statistics on ATV deaths and injuries by state or in the US annually. Does anyone know where to find that information?
GAO report on ATV wrecks
Ray Ring
Ray Ring
Apr 26, 2010 09:33 AM
Here's a link to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (the research arm of Congress) summing up ATV wrecks, injuries and deaths around the U.S. -- http://gao.gov/products/GAO-10-418
Thank you
Charlotte Hutt
Charlotte Hutt
Apr 27, 2010 07:12 PM
Great resource, and timely too.
ATV injuries and deaths
Ralph Kopp
Ralph Kopp
Apr 26, 2010 09:38 AM
Go to www.ATVSafety.gov
Thank you
Charlotte Hutt
Charlotte Hutt
Apr 27, 2010 07:15 PM
This website is very easy to navigate. It will be great for my students. Thanks again.

About Ray

Ray has been a Western journalist since 1979. He's now High Country News senior editor, based in Bozeman, Montana. He's earned national recognition including a George Polk Award for political reporting, a Sidney Hillman Foundation Journalism Award for investigating oil-field accidents, and an Investigative Reporters & Editors scroll for going undercover as a prison inmate. He's had three novels published.