“It's been a long, cold winter,” said Dr. Terry Johnson. “I just want us all to be safety-conscious in the months to come.”
Johnson, an experienced motorcyclist himself, warns that even though four-wheelers and other ATVs are not designed to ride on roads and highways, they often are.
“I hope that all law enforcement agencies and responsible citizens will work together to keep these vehicles off road where they belong. We've had far too many injuries and deaths from these vehicles being used improperly,” Johnson said. “If you treat ATV riding like you're playing a video game, eventually you are going to pay the price.”
ATVs have their limits, he said. Some hills are too steep, some terrain too rough, and, he added, “just because your ATV is as fast as lightning, doesn't mean you have to go faster than conditions will bear.”
He also warns ATV users not to double a passenger if the vehicle isn't designed for it. Such use could cause the vehicle to tumble or flip.
Motorcycles also can be fun but dangerous, and are extremely vulnerable to collisions. Johnson urges bikers to ride responsibly.
“From a safety standpoint, you can't make yourself too conspicuous,” Johnson said. “Bright, reflective gear makes you much more visible, and can save your life, (and) it makes no sense to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. The risk of head injury is just too great.”
Portsmouth Mayor James Kalb said he has been riding motorcycles since he was 8 years old, and stresses the importance of proper safety.
“I ride mostly off-road, but anytime I'm off-road or on, I wear proper equipment. When I'm off-road, I wear everything I can put on to protect my body. It doesn't heal the way it used to,” Kalb said.
Kalb said he owns seven dirt bikes and a street bike, but said he mostly enjoys riding off-road.
“It's just something I've always enjoyed. It's a way to get out and relieve some stress,” Kalb said.
Whether its an ATV or a motorcycle, Dr. Johnson recommends riders always wear a helmet, eye protection, sturdy clothes and boots. Riders also should consider taking a safety course, which, he said, many ATV manufacturers offer free of charge.
“Stay safe,” Johnson said. “Let's all live to see and enjoy the changing leaves of fall.”
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235.