RICHMOND – On the rear wall of Brian Mikes’ garage turned classroom there are signs of a life well lived. A picture of Mikes shaking the hand of former President Lyndon B. Johnson. Numerous commendations and certificates. Newspaper clippings.
“I’m still a crazy kid,” said the former army chef turned instructor. Mikes, 69, now runs an ATV safety course on his Richmond farm.
All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are popular in this area because they can be used year-round by hunters, fishermen, commercial agencies, or those wanting to pull, plow or just plain have fun.
“You can’t not be happy on an ATV,” Mikes said.
Still, ATVs can be dangerous.
“You can get killed, it’s a powerful machine,” Mikes said. “If you’re not aware of what the heck you’re doing, you can get thrown off.”
ATVsafety.gov estimates that in 2011 there were 327 deaths from ATV accidents, and 107,500 emergency calls. ATVsafety is still tallying state figures, but in Illinois from 2008 to 2011, there were 259 reported ATV deaths.
Certified by the ATV Safety Institute, Mikes runs the three- to four-hour safety sessions on most weekends on his 7-acre farm. An oval circle in his back yard provides space to practice emergency turns and stops and learn other rules for riding safely, or as Mikes puts it, “all the maneuvers that you will ever do on an ATV in a safe environment.”
By the end of each course, students learn how to anticipate and overcome obstacles, and perhaps the most important lesson, Mikes said, maintaining safety in speed.
Mikes’ students are anywhere in age from 6 to 91. Some are just getting the feel for a new machine. Manufacturers often give buyers of new ATVs a coupon to take a safety course; some out-of-state rental companies require riders to have a safety certificate. He’s taught individuals, families, commercial workers, and even police, fire and public works officials. Rates are $100 for adults and $55 for children.
For information, call Mikes at 815-814-6522. Information on the ATV Safety Institute can be found at www.ATVsafety.org.