ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. - With schools letting out for the summer, experts are reminding people to use caution when riding ATVs.
"The machines aren't as dangerous as people riding them," said Phil Harwick, sales manager at Star City Powersports in Roanoke County.
ATVs, or all-terrain vehicles, are meant for off-road riding, but like any other vehicle, Harwick said, they need to be operated with safety in mind.
"You just have to use caution," he said.
Harwick sells ATVs at Star City Powersports. Outside the shop, he said he has seen many people make the mistake of allowing younger riders on machines that are too big for them. Many ATVs should only be operated by people age 16 and older, he added.
"As school gets out, kids are going to want to be out there playing, things like that, jump on dad's four-wheeler, don't know how to operate it, and end up getting in trouble," Harwick said.
Riders also need to wear the proper safety gear, he added.
"One of the biggest things you can always look at is wearing a good, DOT approved helmet," Harwick explained. "Second thing, wearing protective pants or protective boots. That will keep your ankles safe."
Harwick said people should never ride with a passenger unless the ATV is designed for more than one rider.
Law enforcement experts say both the riders and owners of ATVs should make sure people are following the laws, or they could face consequences.
"If you're unaware if the road conditions aren't good, if there's other factors that are involved, it can all turn to a detrimental incident," said Tod Burke, criminal justice professor at Radford University.
According to the ATV Safety Institute, Friday marks the start of ATV Safety Week. The Institute recommends anyone operating an ATV under the age of 16 be supervised.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 29 people were killed in ATV-related crashes in Virginia from 2013 to 2015.
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