By Diana Hammell
Jared Barnes of Caledonia stresses safety and more safety when talking about ATVs – for children and for adults.
While ATVs are becoming more common among sports enthusiasts, including hunters, casual users, gardeners and farmers, the incidence of accidents has risen with the increased popularity of the equipment. Barnes noted the recent death of a Monona, Iowa woman whose ATV rolled when she used it to get the cows on her farm.
Safety with children
When it comes to children, Barnes stresses that parents need to be more alert and strict with their use. “Parents should think more about ATV safety,” Barnes said.
“They can’t let their kids ride alone or without a helmet. Too many little kids ride alone or together on the same machine, without helmets or on a machine too large for them. You can never get totally away from the danger, but parents need to be more cautious.”
The Barneses ride together as a family and everyone, from adults to the smallest, must wear helmets to ride anything at their house. “Parents should wear their helmets to set a good example, and they need to be around at all times while their children are riding. Children should never be allowed to go off on their own. Kids are kids and can’t be expected to always make the right decisions,” Barnes said.
The ATV (all terrain vehicle) certification class given through Community Ed and taught by Barnes will be held on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to noon. There is an in-class portion where students must take a test. Then there is a hands-on portion where students must maneuver through three obstacle courses.
“They can use their own machine if they fit it, or I will have some for them to use,” Barnes said. If the student does not fit the machine, Barnes cannot allow him to ride it even if it’s theirs.
For those under 12 years of age the DNR guidelines are for them to ride a 90cc four wheeler or smaller. For operators over age 12, a rider while standing on the floor boards or the pegs, must have three to four inches of space between his inseam and the seat. They also must be able to reach the handlebars well enough to be able to bend their elbows and turn the machine in a full radius.
Proper clearance enables the operator to maintain balance when riding over rough terrain and prevents the operator from falling off or being thrown off. A proper fit is not just a recommendation; it’s the law.
Persons 12 to 15 years old and anyone born after July 1, 1987, who is 16 years or older must successfully complete an ATV safety training course like the one Barnes teaches before operating an ATV on public lands, frozen waters, public road rights-of-way or state trails.
Operators can register for safety classes on the DNR website, but Barnes has asked the DNR not to post his classes there. “I want to keep them so they’re only local – more of a community thing,” Barnes said. If they were posted on the DNR site, Barnes knows he would get lots of riders from other parts of the state because operators will drive long distances to become certified.
Barnes plans to teach classes twice per year, in the spring and the fall. Next spring he will teach a class in Mabel with 4-H involvement. He will teach in Caledonia once each year if the need is present.
Sign up for the class
Riders can call Caledonia Community Education at 725-5139 or Barnes to sign up for the Oct. 20 class. Besides the $15 fee to take the class, there is a $15 materials fee to cover the cost and construction of the obstacle courses Barnes makes himself. The Community Ed office will supply students with a DVD of the online course. Upon studying the DVD the student will be ready for the test given in the classroom portion of Barnes’ class.
After the age of 16 an operator is not technically required to attend a class like Barnes’; he can take the online course and become certified. Barnes is striving for operators between the ages of 11 to 16, although operators cannot be fully certified until reaching the age of 12.
Upon completion of the safety course, Barnes sends the class roster to the DNR that day. Students then go to the DNR website to apply and get certified. This can all be completed the same day.