Experts say surge in ATV riders, injuries likely linked to pandemic
University of Vermont Medical Center officials say they are seeing an alarming rise in ATV injuries this year.
Through May 31, 2020, the hospital says it has treated 17 people at the emergency department for an ATV related injury. That's up from six in 2019 and only four in 2018, during the same time period.
There's also a rise in pediatric ATV injuries -- five already this year, which is up from an average of less than one the last two years.
The Vermont ATV Sportsman's Association (VASA) says with an uptick in riders because of the pandemic, it's never been more important to learn about safe operation.
"Manufacturers do provide the opportunity for training. Some people may take advantage of that, but it's nothing's required," said VASA's Danny Hale.
Hale says if you are a member of VASA, there are safety guidelines you have to follow."Our bylaws clearly state that you must wear a helmet when participating on our trails. We do our best to make sure everyone understands what they're supposed to be doing," he said.
In Newport City, ATV riders are allowed to drive on some city roadways. So far, Newport Police say they haven't had many issues with riders. Chief Travis Bingham says that on top of state laws surrounding ATV operation on public roads, they also added some additional rules to keep drivers of all vehicles safe.
"Driving through Newport, you have to be at least 16-years-old and you have to have a valid driver's license," Bingham said.
Hale and Bingham believe ATV ridership is up right now due to the pandemic. "I know that if you went to any ATV shop in the state of Vermont right now, they're going to tell you they're probably sold out or they've sold more ATVs than they ever have," said Bingham.
Hale added it's likely that some of the injuries seen recently could be due to the rapid increase in new ATV operators."Sales are through the roof. A lot of the people that are recent purchasers of these units didn't grow up that way, so it's foreign to them," he said.