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Fatal Nighttime Head-On Collision Reminds ATV Riders to Follow Rules of the Road

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Summer 2011 has seen a spate of deadly all-terrain vehicle crashes in the three states my Virginia-based personal injury attorney colleagues and I primarily serve. In May, a teen in Williamsburg, Virginia (VA), lost her life after falling from an ATV. Three months later, a 17-year-old resident of Asheville, North Carolina (NC), died when his ATV struck a guardrail in West Virginia. Neither of the youngsters killed in those incidents were wearing helmets.

Now, a man riding his four-wheeler along State Route 52 near the small town of Varney, West Virginia (VA), was killed life after he was reportedly at fault for a head-on collision with a truck. WSAZ News Channel 3 reported on August 8 that the ATV driver crossed the center line of the rural highway and ran into the other vehicle. The television station also noted that the victim did not have his headlights on when the deadly wreck occurred at night.

View a larger map of Mingo County, West Virginia

As the above map shows, Varney is in a particularly rural part of West Virginia. ATVs are undoubtedly common in the area, and are almost certainly considered a necessity for many residents. These realities make it all the more important for four- and three-wheel riders to take safety seriously when using their ATVs for recreation, work and regular transportation.

West Virginia law, like similar regulations North Carolina, treats ATVs a lot like motorcycles while also banning use of ATVs on interstates and divided highways. Riders must wear helmets and other protective gear; very young children should not operate the vehicles accompanied. Most importantly, when ATVS are taken out onto public roads, they must follow all other traffic laws. This means, among other things, that ATV riders must stop before crossing roads on which they are not otherwise supposed to drive, signal when making turns and turn their headlights on at night.

I'm mentioning all this not to blame the victim of the sad accident in West Virginia, but to try to impress on people -- especially the teenagers and young adults who seem most in need of the reminder -- the importance of operating their ATVs safely. Because legal distinctions between motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles are minimal, riders should take operating an ATV as seriously as they would a two-wheeled vehicle.

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