Were your kids at Kusawa Lake this weekend?
If so, you might consider giving them a refresher course in ATV safety.
Better, you might give some thought to confiscating the keys.
Throughout the weekend, teenage girls and boys roared around the popular campsite on the beefy, four-wheeled vehicles.
Nobody wore a helmet.
Several times, five girls were piled on a single vehicle as it roared around the dusty gravel roads.
And several of the yahoos were seen drinking both before and after they got on the vehicle.
Youth clearly see the machines as a passport to backcountry fun.
But they are also tremendously dangerous.
“An ATV is a powerful machine that requires skill and judgment to operate safely,” according to the Canada Safety Council.
Canada is the largest market for ATVs in the world. Today, about 850,000 Canadians own one.
And the injury stats reflect this.
ATV-related injuries are now the third most common cause of severe injury next to bicycles and snowmobiles.
Those most at risk of being injured are boys between 15 and 19.
And 15 per cent of those killed every year are younger than 15 years old.
A recent US study determined that ATV injuries among children increased close to 80 per cent between 1997 and 2000.
Often, alcohol is a factor in the accidents.
In Alberta, between 1999 and 2002, there were 20 ATV-related deaths. Alcohol was involved in 45 per cent of them.
And, in Canada, very few ATV riders have any formal training.
In Quebec, riders between the ages of 14 and 16 must pass a course before they are allowed to drive one. Other provinces are considering similar rules.
The Yukon should also consider strengthening its rules governing ATVs.
However, in our backcountry rules are difficult to enforce.
It really falls on parents to ensure their children know the basic rules about operating these machines.
The safety council offers courses and literature.
But it goes beyond that.
If children are heading out to the bush to party, parents should think twice before handing them the keys to the ATV. (RM)