For too many ATV riders, safety not a priority, wardens say

Posted Oct. 01, 2011, at 5:18 a.m.
Albert C. Roberti Jr.
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Albert C. Roberti Jr.

PARIS, Maine — After two ATV deaths in Oxford County in the last week, officials are pushing for riders to observe safe riding practices and to take ATV safety classes.

On Wednesday, 14-year-old Albert Roberti crashed into another rider on Elm Hill Road in Paris and was thrown from the vehicle, killing him.

On Saturday, Peter Harrington was riding his ATV with his stepson on Abbott Hill Road in Sumner when he struck a tree. Harrington, of Sumner, was transported to Central Maine Medical Center where he later died of his injuries. The boy suffered minor injuries. Speed was a factor in that accident, according to the Maine Warden Service.

Perry Edwards, a regional safety coordinator covering Oxford and Androscoggin counties for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said safety has always been a hard sell, whether to ATV riders, snowmobile riders or boaters.

He said ATV riding is dangerous even for the most careful rider, but safe riding practices can minimize the risk.

“ATVs are not toys,” Edwards said Friday. Under Maine law, safety training is required for riders under 16. Riders under 16 must also be accompanied by an adult when riding off their parents’ property.

It can be hard to convince riders young and old to take classes. While they cost money through Adult Ed, ATV clubs and dealerships often sponsor classes for their members and customers. Edwards said the X-Tra Mile ATV Club in Paris has sponsored several in recent years.

Edwards said he used to teach ATV safety in middle schools, but packed curriculums didn’t allow for them after a while. He said when the classes are optional, it gets much harder to get participants. Offering after-school classes is “preaching to the choir,” as only safety-minded students attend.

Craig Gerry, vice president of the Lakes Region ATV Club and a Maine Guide, also teaches ATV safety classes. “Frankly, [classes] ought to be mandatory for everybody, parents and young kids, but it’s not happening,” Gerry said.

He said ATV club members are usually the responsible riders, taking safety classes and respecting landowners. But many scheduled classes are canceled when only a few show up. “It gets discouraging after a while,” Gerry said.

Gerry said ATV magazines are partially to blame for their emphasis on speed and performance. “They ride like banshees on them,” he said.

Sometimes tragedy strikes. For Roberti, the 14-year-old who died in Paris, Wednesday wasn’t his first accident. When he was 9 years old, Roberti was struck by a truck in front of his home on Elm Hill Road and had to be flown to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

According to a police report at the time, Roberti was treated for multiple fractures and contusions. Lt. Michael Dailey of the Paris Police Department wrote a summons, charging Roberti’s mother with allowing a person under 10 to operate an ATV and for allowing a minor to operate an ATV in violation of Title 12, as the ATV was not registered and Roberti was crossing a public way.

The charges were later dismissed.

There have been several ATV deaths in Maine over the summer, including a Sebago man in April and a Limestone man who died on Sept. 18.

Edwards said the number of ATV deaths on average is low, “but one death is too many.”

To see more from the Sun Journal, visit sunjournal.com.

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