Column: SORVA to host ATV/ORV safety class

ESCANABA — The first peak period of the All Terrain Vehicle and Off-Road Vehicle (ATV/ORV) riding season is ramping down while the second season is about to ramp up. Summer trails have seen a lot of traffic this summer and will witness a brief lull as schools open and fall begins. The second phase will rekindle interest as autumn leaves start turning color and ramp up higher as we approach hunting season across the state of Michigan.

ATV/ORV riding has surpassed boating and snowmobiling as an integral part of the motorized recreational industry. Michigan ranks highest in the span of public trails and state forest roads open for use. The national forests also feature a vast network of roads open for use with new emphasis on contiguous riding opportunities and vital connection across the Upper Peninsula. One might consider that all is well as the growth potential stays on a steady climb. Unfortunately there are some numbers that could unravel the progress.

ATVs and ORVs are registered and monitored as motorized vehicles in Michigan. Any accident that involves property damage in excess of $100 or personal injury must be reported to law enforcement authorities where the information is compiled for annual analysis in the Traffic Crash Reporting System (TCRS) of the Michigan State Police (MSP). This data is reviewed by law enforcement to determine frequency of incident and cause. The trends help develop where planning efforts to change incident frequencies should occur. The big question is why these incidents are climbing.

Another study out of Michigan State University sighted a lack of education in operating ATVs and ORVs may be a root cause. The numbers indicate that approximately 44 percent of adult riders have 20 or more years riding experience and over 60 percent of them have no formal training. Numbers regarding youth involved accidents have consistently found that dangerous stunts and maneuvers — along with being unsupervised by an adult — are the leading causes of accidents in that age class. Otherwise, incidents have somewhat leveled off within the middle age class groups, many of whom had safety training.

The TCRS shows that the 10-year trend on total accidents statewide (2008-2017) has grown from 249 to 347 annually (plus 27 percent). That same compilation indicates that the rate of injury of those riders 55-64 years of age has grown 53 percent and fatalities among those 45-54 has grown from 2-5 annually and 55-64 from 0-3 annually. While the report does not specifically mark ORVs in one category, personal injury accidents where riders were not wearing seatbelts has grown from 1-32 annually.

While these numbers are contained within the State of Michigan, they are also reviewed by agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC was the key player in the banning of production and sale of All Terrain Cycles (ATCs) also known as three wheelers. The climb in catastrophic accident had shot up so rapidly that the CPSC nearly shut down the entire industry.

In an effort to curb problems, the Sportsmen’s Off-Road Vehicle Association (SORVA) of Delta County, in cooperation with the Hiawathaland Trails Association, will conduct a safety training certification class on Sept. 8 on the U.P. State Fairgrounds. The event will be at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Pocket Park with class held in the adjacent building #5. This will be a large class accepting as many as 65 youth and adult students.

Riders are also encouraged (but not required) to bring their machines to the event where they can apply the safety disciplines taught in the class on the exclusive SORVA practical skills track. SORVA will provide five trainer machines in sizes to fit all. At the end of the day, there will be an organized group ride starting at the Escanaba – Hermansville designated ATV/ORV Route on the fairgrounds that will loop onto the southern route to Schaffer and then back into Escanaba. Lunch and an afternoon cookout will also be provided to those attending and materials for the class are also provided – all free of charge. The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. eastern time and all who successfully complete the class will receive a Michigan ATV/ORV Safety Certificate that same day.

This could not happen without strong community support and special thanks goes to primary sponsors including: OSF St. Francis Hospital of Escanaba and Schoolcraft County Memorial Hospital in Manistique as part of their Community Trauma Prevention Program, and the Fish & Hunt Shop of Curtis, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Delta County Sheriff Department. There will be prizes awarded at the event that will hopefully include some new DOT approved riding helmets.

Members of SORVA will attend riders on the skills track as well as the ride and anyone wanting to enroll can call the Escanaba MDNR Office at (906)786-2351 daily. Once answered press “0” where Jo Ann or Dixie will sign you up. They will answer any questions you may have. Those students less than 10 years of age must be accompanied by an adult. One adult may represent several youth students as a parental designee. Registrants from Alger, Delta, Marquette, Menominee and Schoolcraft Counties are already scheduled to attend so others wanting to attend should sign up as soon as possible. Information required will include name, date of birth, telephone number and name of parent or guardian. State Law requires any youth less than 16 years of age must obtain safety certification before being eligible to operate and ATV/ORV on any (public or private) land and must be accompanied by an adult until they reach the age of 16.

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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.

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