DNR, law enforcement push ATV safety ahead of Memorial Day Weekend

Off-roading on the state's 3,800-plus miles of designated trails, not to mention five scramble...
Off-roading on the state's 3,800-plus miles of designated trails, not to mention five scramble areas, draws ORV enthusiasts from all over Michigan.(David Kenyon | source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:05 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - DNR officials and law enforcement will be stepping up enforcement over the Memorial Day Weekend with a focus on ATV safety in the Northland.

Many people will be hitting the road and heading outdoors to visit lakes and cabins this weekend kicking off the unofficial start of summer.

DNR officials and law enforcement say they will be conducting intensive patrols of lakes, trails and state parks. They say ATV and UTV crashes tend to increase this time of the year and they are here to remind people to be safe while operating these vehicles.

Authorities say it’s important to treat them like any motor vehicle. They warn people to practice similar rules of the road like no speeding, no drinking and driving, and being aware of your surroundings. Authorities also want to remind drivers to not trespass onto private property. In both Minnesota and Wisconsin, if you are under 18, you must have a helmet on and all passengers must have a seatbelt.

“We’re definitely not out there to ruin anyone’s fun, but a citation is a much better result than what could happen without that safety equipment,” said Nick Webster with Wisconsin DNR. “Respect the vehicles and stay to the right side of the trail and around corners, that’s where we see some of the issues.”

Officials say along with enforcement, education is also a key component of safety. Anyone 12 years and older need to have an ATV driving certificate. In a UTV, the age limit is 16 years old.

Cass County Sheriff Bryan Welk says his department has seen an increase in ATV crashes with an average of between two and three crashes every weekend last summer. He says they have also seen an increase in young riders and passengers.

Welk says responding to calls like these are difficult.

“I was born and raised in this county and I tell people, the first question is, ‘is it someone I know, am I related to them?’” said Welk, “when you get there you may or may not know them, but it’s someone’s loved one and when you see the trauma from an accident like that, being ejected and not wearing a seatbelt, on a side by side, it’s very traumatic.”

Welk says inexperienced drivers and higher-powered ATV’s are contributing to some of the crashes they respond to.

“Within the last seven and eight years, seeing more incidents... with ATV’s with more power and more companies that rent out vehicles . . . and people have no experience.”

“The use of ATV’s has gone up drastically and the power of the machines have gone up exponentially, you have all different rider experience levels and even when you are doing everything right, things can happen,” said Welk.

Welk says his department has three ATV side-by-side rangers with rescue sleds on them and an EMS rack to help transport people. He says when an ATV accident with injury call comes in, helicopters auto launch right away because time is of the essence in remote areas.

Both DNR and law enforcement say they want everyone to have a good holiday weekend, but they also want everyone to go home safely.

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