Two recent tragedies here in the Mid-Ohio Valley once again demonstrate that despite the fun and recreational potential all-terrain vehicles can offer, they can be deadly if operated improperly.

In the space of three weeks, two people – a 45-year-old Parkersburg man, and an 18-year-old high school senior from the Cutler area of Washington County – died from injuries received in ATV accidents. Both are still under investigation, it is possible those investigations will provide safety lessons for future riders.

Because of the rural nature of many parts of Ohio and West Virginia, ATVs are extremely popular with farmers, hunters and recreationists. But because of this popularity and our states’ terrain, both states also have a high rate of accidents and deaths involving ATVs. In fact, West Virginia has, on several occasions, led the nation in ATV deaths. Legislatures in both states have attempted to pass stricter safety laws governing their use, but because most ATVs are operated in fairly remote locations where there is little law enforcement presence, many riders, unfortunately, can ignore these safety regulations, either purposefully or through overconfidence because of familiarity with the vehicle.

Knobby tires on an ATV are not designed for gripping pavement. Most ATVS are not equipped – and in many cases, it is not legal – to drive on a paved road. It is dangerous, and easy to lose control, on a paved surface.

Passengers and drivers of ATVs should always wear helmets and safety gear, but those are just the beginning of safety protocol for ATVs, and owners of such vehicles must be meticulous in following any and all rules for operation.

ATV accidents have tragic consequences and leave behind grieving family members. No law can prevent accidents if it is not obeyed.