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Officials urge caution after recent ATV accidents

POSTED: June 5, 2013 4:00 a.m.

Emergency officials are urging caution this summer in the wake of two serious all-terrain vehicle accidents, including a fatality near downtown Dawsonville last month.

Hoyle Jett, 73, of Guyton was killed May 7 when he attempted to cross Hwy. 53 on a four-wheeler and was struck by an oncoming pickup truck near Perimeter Road.

On May 26, two teenagers were thrown from a four-wheeler when it overturned on Frederick's Cove near the Lumpkin County line. The crash sent a 16-year-old Duluth girl to a trauma center in Atlanta with head injuries.

On both occasions, neither drivers, nor the passenger in the second incident, were wearing helmets, a factor that Dawson County Emergency Services Chief Lanier Swafford said he hopes is not "a trend."

"We've seen an increased number of injuries due to the lack of helmets," he said. "With summer coming on and increased usage of ATVs, bicycles and other outside sports that are maybe considered ... above average in danger, like mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing - all of these have recommendations that people wear a helmet.

"We just encourage them to do that, because certainly head and spinal injuries are very significant, they are life changing and they are very expensive on our society and the health care industry."

While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children 16 and younger not be allowed to operate ATVs, Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said there are few state laws governing the vehicles.

Unlike many states, Georgia does not require ATVs to be registered or titled, nor is there a minimum age for drivers or riders. Helmets are also not required.

Unless changes are made, Carlisle said ATV enthusiasts must rely on common sense when operating the vehicles, including following the manufacturer's age recommendations.

"The manufacturers have a certain age limit recommendation to ride the different ATVs," he said. "People need to follow the recommendations from the four-wheeler companies, like riding alone unless it's built for passengers."

DCN regional staff contributed to this story.



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