ORANGE PARK, Fla. – A deadly ATV crash over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Nassau County is still under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.
It happened during a time when four-wheelers are hot holiday items on the wish lists of many children.
An ATV dealership in Orange Park told News4Jax on Monday that this is its busiest time of the year. But the dealership said it’s not just about the sales -- safety is its No. 1 priority. All of the ATVs are clearly marked with age requirements, and some have speed regulators.
But even with all the safety warnings, the Highway Patrol told News4Jax that troopers have responded to 199 ATV crashes involving people ages 19 and younger in 2019 in Florida, and they responded to 286 in 2018.
“These are dangerous vehicles or can be dangerous vehicles, just like a motorcycle or even traveling down the roadway in a regular vehicle," said Master Sgt. Dylan Bryan, with the Highway Patrol.
In October, according to the Highway Patrol, two 8-year-old girls were seriously injured when the ATV that they were riding on flipped in Bradford County.
On Saturday, three teenagers were riding on an ATV when it struck a brick mailbox just south of Callahan in Nassau County, troopers said. An 18-year-old passenger died at a hospital and the other two teens were hospitalized with injuries. The FHP report indicated none of the teens was wearing a helmet.
“One of the things that we are looking at is the number of occupants on that vehicle that is designed for two occupants at a max," Bryan said. “As of right now, we don’t think impairment was a factor. We think it was just these young adults having a good time and then this terrible tragedy occurred. If anything good comes out of tragedy is lives are typically changed or saved as a whole and what I mean by that is that the educational aspect. This provides an opportunity for other families to bring up and talk about this type of subject and the importance of doing the right thing at the right time.”
Most ATV dealerships recommend safety classes, especially for children. The Highway Patrol said that once an ATV is taken off the lot, it’s up to the parents to make sure their children are educated on the do’s and don’ts.
“That is exactly right -- not only the parents, but the operator, too. I don’t want to take anything away from the operator regardless of their age, there are certain requirements that the state requires," Bryan said.
Click here to view the state’s off-highway vehicle safety guide.
“Be their parent. You are not their friend," Bryan said. "We want you to understand that you’re responsible for their safety whether they are in your presence or not.”