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.)

FATALITES

Utah

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.

Wyoming

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.

Idaho

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 …"

California

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."

Oregon

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."

Arizona

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.

NONFATAL SERIOUS ACCIDENTS

Oregon

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.

Utah

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.

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.