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Parent Uses Loss of Loved One To Preach Safety Of All-Terrain Vehicles

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GODWIN — As summer approaches, children may look for adventure and excitement on an all-terrain vehicle. One parent is using the memory of her son to send out an important safety message.

Tonya Johnson finds comfort in looking through sympathy cards. Just over a year ago, her son, Stephen Carroll, died riding an ATV. He was not wearing a helmet.

"It was a freak accident," Johnson says. "There's a hole in your heart, a wound that never heals."

The loss of her 13-year-old son has been hard to talk about until now. She hopes her story will emphasize the importance of safety behind the wheel.

"Take time to stop and see how many stickers are on there that I never paid attention to," Johnson says.

According to the ATV Safety Institute, riders should follow age restrictions printed on each model. Children should always be under adult supervision and should never ride two at a time. Wearing a helmet on an ATV is not the law, but it is highly recommended.

Rita Lovick, who goes riding all the time, puts safety first.

"It's fun, just like driving a car with the windows down or being on a Jet Ski," Lovick says. "It's a powerful machine so you don't want to abuse it."

It is a lesson Tonya Johnson does not want anyone to find out the way she did.

Thousands of people are injured each year on ATVs. While other sports have more injuries, ATVs are more deadly than most.

According toConsumer Product Safety Reviewestimates, more people are injured playing basketball than any sport. Bicycle and football injuries are not far behind.

More than 114,000 people are hurt on ATVs or mopeds each year. From 1985 to 1997, 3,200 people died on ATVs.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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