AQUASH email@example.com_county.london.london_free_press 2007-11-06 published
All-terrain vehicle deaths have doubled across region
Police say the increase in this type of fatality is totally preventable.
By Joe BELANGER, Sun Media, Tues., November 6, 2007
Alcohol, helmets and speed are key factors in six deaths this year of people riding all-terrain vehicles in Southwestern Ontario.
And a disturbing trend that has seen double the number of all-terrain vehicle fatalities across the province continued last weekend when a 28-year-old Howick man was killed after losing control of the vehicle.
"They're not handling the vehicles properly," said Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Dave Rector, media officer for the Southwest Region.
"It's a powerful machine. They're not wearing helmets, they're mixing alcohol and that's just a recipe for disaster."
At about midnight Sunday, police said, an all-terrain vehicle driven by James SCHUMACHER, 28, of Howick, went out of control on Gorrie Line in Howick Township.
SCHUMACHER was pronounced dead at the scene and a passenger suffered minor injuries. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.
It was the second all-terrain vehicle-related death in less than a week.
Jerome Leonard AQUASH, 24, of Walpole Island was killed and three others injured early last Thursday when an all-terrain vehicle crashed into a telephone pole and a tree on Chiefs Road near Dan Shab Road. Among those injured was a 15-year-old girl who was airlifted to London Health Sciences Centre in serious condition.
To the end of October, 23 people died in 22 all-terrain vehicle accidents in Ontario, up 91.7 per cent over 2006 when 12 people died in 12 all-terrain vehicle incidents over the same period.
There has been a 350 per cent increase in the number of people killed in Ontario while not wearing a helmet -- nine this year versus two last year.
Meanwhile, alcohol has been a factor in 13 deaths in 2007, up 225 per cent from four last year.
"In reviewing reports of all-terrain vehicle fatal incidents, in a majority of cases the driver was going too fast, lost control and either hit something or the driver was thrown off the vehicle and it landed on him," said Chief Superintendent Bill GRODZINSKI, commander of the Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division.
"All-terrain vehicles can be very dangerous if not driven responsibly," he said. "Drinking and driving or not wearing a helmet increases an operator's chance of having a serious crash considerably."
In one incident, an all-terrain vehicle driver was going too fast on a private road and lost control on a curve. The driver was ejected from the vehicle and was hit by a pickup truck.
In another, an inexperienced driver tried to jump a ditch but hit the edge of it instead and launched the vehicle 29 metres before it landed on the driver, who had been drinking.
"The increase in this type of fatality is totally preventable," GRODZINSKI said. "The Ontario Provincial Police will continue to maintain a zero tolerance approach to charging all-terrain vehicle operators who are caught drinking and driving or not wearing approved helmets."
Aside from fatalities, all-terrain vehicle injuries are also causing concern. A recent Canadian Institute for Health Information study concluded the number of hospitalizations related to all-terrain vehicle accidents increased 25 per cent from 1996-1997 to 2004-2005.
That means, on average, 19 people a day went to emergency departments in Ontario, a toll that has climbed dramatically in less than a decade.
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