HIBBING — As county roads across Itasca County open for All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) starting this Saturday, July 15, drivers and riders should be aware of the risks for ATV accidents.

In 2016, a total of 18 people died in ATV and off-highway motorcycle (OHM) crashes, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Alcohol was a factor in four of them.

In most of these incidents, the person who died was involved in a rollover or was thrown from the vehicle.

From 2003-2016, there were 3,922 ATV crashes in Minnesota (including some fatalities), DNR statistics show. Of those, St. Louis County saw the most incidents — totaling 397 — followed by Itasca County with 177 crashes and Cass County with 166 crashes.

ATV safety on the roads and trails begins with training.

For youth ages 6 to 15, an online training course is required by the DNR along with a hands-on riding performance class followed by a hands-on safety course.

According to the Minnesota ATV/OHM riders education course, the No. 1 priority in safe ATV riding is knowing your personal limits and abilities and working within them.

Although a buddy system is recommended for safe riding, the DNR suggests that riders don’t try and keep up with more experienced friends, as trying to catch them or ride at their level can often lead to danger.

Another important safety point is to be prepared for the rigors of riding. This means eating and sleeping well, and being willing to take breaks on the trail, the DNR instructs.

If you are riding in a group, remember to keep a safe distance from your friends. If someone is tailgating you, slow down and let them pass.

The most important tool on the trail? Your head, the DNR explains.

Know your environment and constantly scan, evaluate and adjust your riding to the terrain and conditions.

Finally, the DNR instructs riders to follow the three R’s: respect yourself, respect others and be responsible for the actions that you choose and choose not to do.

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