By Hayley Cook
WILLIAMSON – As ATV riding season approaches in Mingo County, ATV safety instructor courses are being taught in Williamson to ensure all participants in the sport are well prepared.
West Virginia University 4-H Extension Agent Mark Whitt has been leading these courses, with a main goal of having more instructors available to provide these free services in West Virginia.
Several volunteers helped with the instruction, including a deputy sheriff, three extension agents, a teacher from Boone County, a volunteer firefighter from Chattaroy, a teacher from Tug Valley High School, and a teacher from Mingo Central High School. Chief instructor Mike Klumpp from Oklahoma was also present for the training, which is offered free of charge with the hope that fewer ATV-related deaths will occur in West Virginia.
Whitt has taken his instruction to local schools, focusing mainly on the safe and responsible use of all-terrain vehicles and other specialty vehicles. He said, “West Virginia has a terrible statistic of averaging 50 deaths a year related to ATV accidents.” He went on to explain that, with proper ATV safety training, that number can be drastically improved.
For example, over the course of 13 years, only six ATV-related deaths have occurred on the Hatfield-McCoy trails. That is a large difference from the more than 300 deaths West Virginia saw in 2013 from ATV-related accidents. Whitt believes that the proper training could save lives. In an area where this sport is so popular, his safety training classes could inform many people about how to safely enjoy riding an ATV.
The courses are being implemented by West Virginia University’s Safety Institute and 4-H program. WVU has nine instructors who work throughout the state to ensure ATV safety courses are implemented statewide. The courses have recently expanded to schools, thanks to a collaboration with the Mingo County Board of Education and the Mingo County 4-H Program.
Twenty-four children from Mingo Central have completed the course, gaining DMV certification, which is required by law. Sixteen children from Regional Christian School have also completed the course and earned DMV certification. Another class is scheduled for the first week of June at Tug Valley High School, with an expectancy of 30 children participating.
The average class takes about 4-5 hours, and involves an intensive training program which prepares students for teaching others. Klumpp said, “It is their fourth day here and they have 16 lessons today.”
Whitt says he is fortunate for Harry Anderson who is the director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Council. It is because of a grant donated by the council that these safety courses can take place.
With ATV accidents resulting in more than 300 deaths annually, these lessons are beneficial to natives of West Virginia, an area where ATV riding is a treasured pastime.
Whitt can be contacted at (304) 235-2692 for more information.