By LEO KELLEY
FITTSTOWN — A passenger on a 4-wheeler was killed Monday when he was ejected from the vehicle, according to an Oklahoma Highway Patrol report.
Troopers said 22-year-old Juan Rosas of Stonewall was a passenger on a 2002 Bombardier all-terrain vehicle driven by a 14-year-old Stonewall teen-ager. Rosas was ejected about 22 feet after the ATV — traveling at a high rate of speed — hit an embankment and rolled over two and a half times. The teen-ager was also thrown from the vehicle.
Rosas was dead at the scene from head injuries, the OHP report said.
The teen was transported by Pontotoc County Emergency Medical Services to Valley View Regional Hospital in Ada, where he was treated for minor injuries and released, the patrol said.
The accident occurred Monday at about 6:30 p.m. in a pasture seven miles south of Ada near Fittstown.
Rosas’ death was the first traffic fatality in Pontotoc County in 2007.
Investigating OHP trooper Heath Davidson of the Johnston County detachment of Ardmore-based Troop F said excessive speed was the cause of the accident. Neither Rosas or the teen was wearing a helmet, the report said.
OHP was assisted by Fittstown first responders and Chickasaw Police officers.
On a positive note, traffic fatalities in Oklahoma decreased for the last seven months of 2006 when compared with 2005 numbers, according to Oklahoma Department of Public Safety statistics.
The deadliest years on Oklahoma highways were 1982, when 1,070 fatalities occurred, and 1981 when 1,004 died in traffic accidents. The most killed on Pontotoc County roads was 17 in both 1996 and 1998.
ATV accidents continue to rise
Rosas’ death continues the trend of escalating injuries and death in ATV-related accidents. Safety officials said ATVs offer excellent opportunities for recreation. When safety, however, is not a priority there could be tragic results.
Several Pontotoc County residents have been killed or injured in four-wheeler accidents in recent years.
Safety officials said many accidents result from driving the vehicles too fast. And the risk of serious injury or death increases when helmets are not in use.
The number of ATV injuries doubled in 1999 and 2000 from the previous seven years and tripled in 2001 and 2002, according to the state Department of Health.
During an 11-year period in Oklahoma, more than 350 persons were hospitalized and 62 persons were killed from injuries on all-terrain vehicles , according to a study published in the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
The study between 1992-2002 showed 38 individuals who were killed in ATV accidents suffered brain injuries that caused their deaths.
Oklahoma’s data is similar to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which reveals more than a 100 percent increase in ATV-related injuries and deaths from 1997-2002. CPSC data shows that those under age 16 were 54 percent more likely to be injured than older persons. Recreational drivers were found to be 14 times more likely to be injured than non-recreational drivers and the least experienced drivers with less than one year of driving experience were seven to eight times more likely to be injured than those with more experience. Ninety-five percent of injured children were found to be driving ATVs larger than recommended for their age.
“ATV riders should understand the substantial risks of serious or fatal injuries associated with riding ATVs,” said Dr. Michael Crutcher, state health commissioner. “Parents should know that ATVs are difficult to operate, and children often do not have the cognitive and physical ability to drive these vehicles safely. In fact, compared to bike crashes, an ATV crash is six times more likely to send a child to the hospital and 12 times more likely to kill a child.”
In the Oklahoma study, children younger than 16 accounted for nearly half of the fatal and nonfatal brain injuries and nearly one-quarter of the spinal cord injuries.
Crutcher said ATVs can travel at highway speeds and weigh up to 600 pounds.
Many studies have shown that ATVs roll over frequently. CPSC estimates helmet use by ATV riders would reduce the risk of death by 42 percent and the risk of nonfatal head injury by 64 percent.
“Based on these estimates, universal helmet use in our study would have prevented 199 nonfatal and 16 fatal brain injuries,” Crutcher said.
ATV tips from National Safety Council (Please bold and center)
ATVs have become popular for work and recreation on many farms and ranches. Unfortunately, reported cases of serious injury and death have increased along with their increased use. Most of these injuries and deaths can be attributed to improper use of ATVs. Make ATV safety a priority on your farm or ranch.
——— An ATV is not a toy. Children should not be permitted to operate ATVs without specialized training and then they should be allowed to only operate an ATV of an appropriate size. Contact the ATV Safety Institute to enroll in a course.
——— ATVs with engine sizes between 70cc-90cc should be operated by people age 12 or older.
——— ATVs with an engine size of greater than 90cc should only be operated by people at least 16.
——— Wear appropriate riding gear: DOT--approved helmet, goggles, gloves, over-the-ankle boots, long-sleeve shirt and long pants.
——— Read your owner’s manuals carefully.
——— ATVs are not made for multiple riders. Never carry anyone else on the ATV.
——— Any added attachments affect the stability, operating and braking of an ATV.
——— Just because an attachment is available doesn't mean that it can be used without increasing your risk of being injured.
——— Do not operate the ATV on streets, highways or paved roads.
——— Are your tires and wheels in good condition?
——— Are the controls and cable operational?
——— Does the chain have proper slack and is it lubricated?
——— Is riding gear (including a helmet) available and worn?