North Country
1:00 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Federal Safety Agency: ATVs On Pavement In Coos Is A Poor Idea

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

The plan to open some streets in Coos County to all-terrain vehicles as part of the “Ride the Wilds” network is being greeted with dismay by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission,  says Carl Purvis, an agency spokesman.

“It is much better to ride that ATV on terrain it was designed for as opposed to taking it onto a paved road,” Purvis said.

Purvis said ATVs were engineered for dirt and riders can have handling problems on pavement. They can also be struck by cars.

Between 2005 and 2007 about one-third of ATV-related deaths occurred on paved surfaces, Purvis said. That’s about 800 deaths. More recent figures were not available.

Jurisdictions that opened some streets to ATVs include Gorham, Berlin and Colebrook.

That was done as part of “Ride the Wilds,” a 700-mile network of ATV trails designed to increase tourism.

Some streets were opened to make it easier for ATV riders to trundle into town and spend money for fuel, motels and restaurants.

ATVs are not designed for use on pavement, agreed Chris Gamache, the head of the state’s trails bureau.

But Gamache said efforts were made to pick short sections of roads that will minimize the risk and officials will be monitoring the issue.

In Colebrook, for example, the speed limit will be 10 miles per hour.

And when Colebrook approved ATVs on streets earlier this year selectman Bob Holt noted the policy could change.

“The board also has the right to rescind any one of these roads if there are problems,” he said.

Meanwhile a recent report from the federal agency raises the possibility ATV-related deaths are dropping.

In 2008 there were 741 deaths reported nationwide. In 2011 that was down to 327.

But the agency’s Purvis cautioned against assuming that is a trend because the number of deaths could increase. He said deaths may be reported to the agency long after they occur.

In New Hampshire there has been one ATV-related death in the last 43 months, according to a report from  New Hampshire Fish and Game.