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12-year-old Punta Gorda boy killed in fatal Florida ATV crash

Tragedy struck the Florida all-terrain vehicle recreational rider community this week when a 12-year-old boy was killed and his 11-year-old passenger was injured after the ATV they were riding drove off a curved dirt path and struck a tree, Tampa Bay Online reports.

The boys were cut off by a dirt bike and lost control of their ride according to the police report. Both boys were wearing safety goggles and helmets.

Our Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys know that property owners and businesses permitting ATV riders, ATV rental sites, ATV owners and other recreational vehicle enthusiasts (such as dirt bike riders) all share in the responsibility for keeping South Florida terrain, off-road parks and equipment safe. That a negligent act, intentional or not, of another rider; or, oversight on the part of a property manager or owner, can lead to an accident with devastating long-term consequences.

According to Florida Statute 316.2074, children under age 16 are permitted to operate an ATV, but must be wearing a helmet and safety goggles. Riders under 16 are also required to successfully complete an online ATV course and carry proof of same whenever they ride. Overall in 2009, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports there were 536 ATV-related crashes that claimed 12 lives and left another 489 injured.

First and foremost, the ATV Safety Institute reminds recreational riders that ATVs are not toys and that treating them as such can have deadly consequences. Among a host of other guidelines offered below, it is important to ALWAYS follow the manufacturer’s minimum age guidelines for passenger and drivers.

~ Be familiar with the handling quirks of your vehicle. Be comfortable with brake controls, starter systems, transmission clutches, gears, drive chain action, throttle and controls on any ATV you ride.

~ If an ATV is a single rider, NEVER carry a passenger.

~ Passengers and drivers should always wear a DOT-approved helmet. Eye protection and gloves, a heavy long-sleeved shirt and pants, and strong, thick-soled over-the-ankle boots will add more layers padding and protection in the event of an ATV crash.

~ If riding off-road, layering on specialty gear like knee pads, shin guards and chest protectors is recommended.

~ Before riding check your tire air pressure and check to make sure your axle nuts are screwed on tight and secured by cotter pins. Test your throttle, brake and foot-shifter controls for smooth and consistent action. Make sure your oil and fuel levels are topped off.

~ Because riding off-road will rattle loose just about any fasteners, give grips and footrests a good shake before assuming bolts are tight.

~ Carry a toolkit complete with spare parts – spark plugs, tape/wire, and some tow rope – to address common mechanical foul-ups.

~ Know the terrain and know the rules of the road wherever you ride.

~ Keep your hands on the handlebars, your feet on the footrests, your eyes on the road, and your mind free of distraction. In short: pay attention to your ride, the road and your surroundings.

~ Approach soft terrain, turns, slopes, dunes, muddy surfaces and hills cautiously. In other words, adjust your speed according to your confidence in the terrain. Be constantly on alert for human and environmental hazards.

~ Don’t ride alone and don’t mix alcohol or drugs with ATV riding. Carry a charged cell phone and, if possible, a GPS device.

The Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at Freeman & Mallard have been successfully and aggressively representing accident victims and their families in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Ft. Pierce /Port St. Lucie for years. Call us today to schedule a no-obligation appointment to discuss your case at 1-800-529-2368.

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