August 2008
4-H Extension Corner

4-H Extension Corner

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Senior Horse Judging - Left to right (first to fifth) Kaelee Jordan, Talladega Co.; Elizabeth Moulton, Elmore Co.; Megan Boyles, Marshall Co.; Nicole Adams, Fayette Co.; Alex Chappell, Marshall Co.

By James Shropshire

Well, here we are at the time of year to start back to school. I hope your summer has been exciting and very rewarding. If you are in 4-H, I know it has been. We have been so busy with state contests in all kinds of areas: forestry, wildlife, horse judging, hippology, meats and livestock judging, and State Competitive Day. Each of these events gives youth the opportunity to excel and grow in their own area of interest. Our motto in 4-H is to "Make the Best Better" and I think we are definitely on course! Please help us lead youth in your area; volunteer to help with things important or fun to you. It gives you a large sense of accomplishment and the kids a great deal of knowledge. Enjoy your time and keep helping develop our Alabama youth.

Senior Hippology - Left to right (first to fifth) Elizabeth Moulton, Elmore Co.; Ellen Rankins, Lee Co.; Katie Hill, Elmore Co.; Megan Boyles, Marshall Co.; Makenzie Zaborszki, Madison Co.  

Despite higher gasoline prices, ATVs remain very popular with both adults and kids. They are often used in outdoor activities, like hunting and camping, and sometimes are important tools or work. And, of course, riding ATVs is lots of fun! But we sometimes forget ATVs can be just plain dangerous - especially for young people. Nationwide, ATVs injure and kill thousands of children under the age of 16 every year. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have adopted formal policies recommending children under 16 not even drive ATVs.

Here are some of the facts about ATV use:

• 36 percent of farm youth operate ATVs. Farm youth are more likely to operate an ATV than a tractor.

• Males account for 69 percent of the estimated 2,246 non-fatal youth ATV-related injuries each year.

• Nearly half of youth ATV-related fatalities involve head and neck injuries. Most ATV-related injuries involve youth not wearing a helmet.

• Almost 90 percent of children under 16 injured in an ATV incident were riding an adult-sized ATV, vehicles weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

• Less than 4 percent of injured ATV riders participated in formal safety training.

• ATV operators under the age of 16 are 4.5 times more likely than older operators to receive injuries requiring emergency room treatment.

We, in 4-H, have developed an extensive ATV safety training program, so young people (and adults) can learn to stay safe while riding. We have a great website ( where you find out about ATV safety through games and videos. Even with the website, it is still important to get proper "hands-on," certified training. You can check with your county Alabama Cooperative Extension System office about scheduling training in your community.

  Junior Horse Judging - Left to right (first to fifth) Allie Lyle, Fayette Co.; Taylor Tanaka, Montgomery Co.; Lindsey Johnson, Elmore Co., Sarah Slay, Talladega Co.; Kathryn Tucker, Talladega Co.

There are some basic facts to consider in ATV use. First, parents or guardians should not permit youngsters to ride an ATV not recommended for their age group. ATVs can be extremely powerful and difficult to operate. Just as you wouldn’t take a kid off a bicycle and stick him behind the wheel of a Toyota Tundra, you also need to match a rider to the right ATV. Even so, the ATV Safety Institute notes: "While a youth may be of the recommended age to ride a particular size of ATV, not all youngsters have the strength, skill or judgment necessary to operate an ATV."

Four-wheelers or ATVs also demand respect. Young people must have proper training, proper protective equipment and be able to fully understand the machine they are operating. Research has indicated major factors leading to injuries include driver misuse and inappropriate rider behavior, like recklessness.

Additional risk factors include driving at excessive speeds; not wearing protective gear, like helmets; accepting unnecessary risks; accepting passengers and improper supervision or training.

• Remember to make every ride a safe ride.

• Properly train and supervise drivers.

• Restrict the use of ATVs by children.

• Always wear personal protective equipment.

• Do not operate on paved roads.

• Refrain from unnecessary risks like performing stunts, using alcohol or drugs, excessive speeding and accepting riders.

• Do not operate an ATV in adverse weather conditions, insufficient light, hazardous terrain or an ATV in need of repair.

• Keep your ATV in good condition.

And check with your County Extension office about getting 4-H ATV training!

Until next time, God Bless!

James Shropshire is a Regional 4-H Extension Agent.