Program stresses safe ATV, bicycle use

WELLSBURG – Area law enforcement and medical personnel showed children at Hooverson Heights Primary School all-terrain vehicles and bicycles from various angles Friday.

Those angles included proper handling and safety gear that can help prevent accidents and injuries, injuries they may get in such accidents and how they would be treated and traffic laws that govern how ATVs and bikes should be used.

It was all a part of the school’s third ATV-Bicycle Safety Day, which was coordinated by Shawn and Dana Durbin.

Shawn, an emergency medical technician with the Brooke County Ambulance Service; and Dana, a teacher at Follansbee Middle School; started the annual safety program at the middle school several years ago in response to an increase in ATV-related accidents locally and statewide.

It will return there on Monday, but staff at Hooverson Heights Primary School became interested in offering the program, too, and the component of bicycle safety was added.

Any doubts that children at the school had experience with ATVs were dismissed when Bonnie Kerr, the school nurse, asked about 30 fourth-graders how many have ridden the vehicles and a majority of hands were raised.

Kerr discussed how ATV and bicycle riders who don’t wear helmets can suffer serious concussions that can affect their memory, ability to feed and dress themselves and walk.

Elsewhere Deb Dague and Samantha Lawrence, emergency medical technicians with the Brooke County Ambulance Service, recruited kindergartener Kennedie Valero to show her peers how victims of accidents with spinal injuries are treated on scene.

The children watched as Dague and Lawrence carefully placed a cervical collar around Valero’s neck and rolled her onto a backboard. Other children had a turn experiencing the maneuver afterward.

When they asked the children if they will wear helmets when riding ATVs in the future, a boy replied that he didn’t need to because he wouldn’t be in any wrecks.

But the EMTs and the children’s teachers noted no one plans to be in an accident, noting collisions can be the fault of another rider.

“Sometimes as safe as we are, other people may not be safe,” Dague said, adding, “We have to watch out for ourselves because other people may not be looking out for us.”

In another classroom Brooke County Sheriff’s Deputies Larry Palmer and John White, both Prevention Resource Officers for local schools, discussed traffic laws for ATVs and bicycles.

For example, ATVs may not be used on any road with a center line and those designed for single riders should never carry passengers.

Palmer said traffic laws are rules that help to keep everyone safe.

Before the fourth-graders left, White asked, “What do you have to do today to have fun tomorrow?”

“Be safe,” they replied.

Sam Gibb, a certified bicycle safety instructor, unfolded his bicycle from a carrying case he brought into the school’s library. He used the bike to demonstrate proper use of brakes.

Gibb told the pupils they shouldn’t brake suddenly or they may skid or flip over the handlebars. To avoid needing to brake suddenly, they should watch for anything several feet ahead of them that may cross their paths.

Gravel, wet leaves and anything wet should be avoided because it can cause them to skid, he noted.

Gibb also stressed ensuring bicycles are in good working order by following the ABC Check, inspecting tires to ensure they have enough air, brake pads to ensure they aren’t worn, rub the tires or dive into the spokes; and chains to ensure they are tight and not rusty or in need of oil.

All of the children wore sky blue shirts commemorating the event and purchased through the support of the school’s business partners; Hood’s Pharmacy, Uncle Pep’s convenience store, Trackside Grill and Superb Contracting.

Each kindergartener also will receive a bicycle helmet. The older pupils received helmets in previous years.

Nicole Ennis, the school’s principal, said the Brooke County West Virginia University Extension Service also conducted a weekly ATV safety program for the fourth-graders this month.

In the school gym, children participated in slow-paced recreations of common accident scenarios to show how they may be avoided. And everyone got a close look at emergency vehicles, including a STAT MedEvac medical helicopter and Hooverson Heights fire truck, outside.

Durbin said it’s important to have activities to keep the children engaged, so a little fun is mixed in with the program’s serious message.

“The kids love it. They really do,” he said.

Durbin said he hopes the instruction Friday will keep the children from having to learn harder lessons in life.

“There’s nothing worse than going on a call and seeing a young kid hurt,” he said.

(Scott can be contacted at