ATV-related incidents on the rise in southern West Virginia

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Since 1982 there have been nearly 700 deaths relating to all-terrain-vehicles in West Virginia, and almost 100 of those deaths were between just 2015 and 2017.

This summer has seen a major increase in ATV-related accidents. Sergeant Jamie Wilhite with the Beckley Police Department says ATV calls are common around this time of year, and a lot of accidents originate because riders aren’t using them in legal ways. 

“Ride them where you’re allowed to ride them. If the lane’s not marked with a yellow line, you can ride them as long as there’s no city ordinance not allowing that. Always wear a helmet, obviously first and foremost.”

ATVs should typically be kept to trails, but they can still be used on some roads depending on city ordinances. A lot of ATV accidents also happen because riders can sometimes forget basic precautions. And many accidents involve collisions that occur at night.

“If the ATV’s not equipped for passengers, don’t have a passenger on there. Headlights, tail lights, make sure you have all the functions working if you’re out after dark.”

As well, ATV-related calls aren’t always related to driving accidents. According to Sergeant Wilhite, they’ve recently become a popular way for criminals to transport narcotics. 

“Unfortunately it’s another criminal element that criminals use to transport narcotics, transport drugs. Because they’re harder to catch, they’re harder to track. And that’s just something we have to deal with. We actually had an officer injured just a few days ago from an ATV.”

ATV accidents likely aren’t going to slow down any time soon. So it’s best for riders to focus on precautions that help keep them and other drivers safe. Be careful when out after dark, avoid using them on main roads, and always wear a helmet. 

West Virginia also ranks third in the nation for number of ATV-related deaths.