Springtime, so so many people in northeastern and central Pennsylvania, means getting out the all-terrain vehicles and going for a ride. Making sure kids know what they're doing on ATVs is the goal of a group offering free safety courses this summer.
Dave Crowl is a state-certified instructor of an ATV safety class meant just for kids ages 8-15. Newswatch 16 caught up with him at the site of the course, being offered this summer in Coal Township, Northumberland County.
"Everybody that rides an ATV has to know it's a privilege, not a right," said Crowl. State law says if kids are not on private property, they must have a safety certificate to operate an ATV. There's a fee associated with that certification, often $50 or $75, and that's where Geisinger Medical Center comes in.
Dr. Christopher Coppola is a pediatric surgeon at Geisinger, near Danville. He says ATV accidents account for a significant number of injuries each year.
"If you don't count the boo boos and broken bones, the things people go right how for, we found that in 8 years we had 180 serious injuries right here at this hospital, and 5 deaths in that time period," Dr. Coppola said.
He and Carol Hanson, the Pediatric Trauma Coordinator for Geisinger, have obtained a grant for the second year that allows any child, ages 8 to 15, to take an ATV safety class free of charge.
"We felt that it was a deterrent, why kids were not getting the course. We wanted to alleviate that financial burden," said Hanson.
The ATV class is offered one day a month through the summer, on 6500 acres of Northumberland County-owned land.
"This is actually abandoned coal land," said Northumberland County Grants Manager Kathy Jeremiah. "It has a nice variety of terrain. We intend to put a trail head here, and this is where we hold the course."
About 50 kids were certified last year through the course in Northumberland County, and the hope is to keep even more than that this year on the ATV, and out of the operating room.
"At the end of the day, when people are back from their family outings, we want to make sure that a good time was had by all. That's the most important thing about ATV safety," said instructor Dave Crowl.
You must call ahead to register. Participants are asked to bring their own ATVs and safety gear, and parents are encouraged to stay. For more information, contact Northumberland County Planner Jane Gaugler at 570-988-4220.