All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a great way to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. But it's important to remember they are not toys and operating one requires proper instruction and preparation.
Whether you're doing daily chores around the farm or weekend trail rides, make sure you take the proper steps to help keep you and your family safe when using an ATV.
Before You Head Out
- Take a safety training course. ATVs can travel at more than 60 miles per hour and tip over very easily. Knowing how to stay safe while riding one is essential. Typical course topics include starting and stopping, quick turns, hill riding, emergency stopping and swerving, riding over obstacles, protective gear, local regulations, places to ride, and environmental concerns. The All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute® offers safety training courses around the country.
- Wear protective gear. A helmet, boots, goggles, gloves, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket will help protect against cuts and other injuries.
- Don't carry passengers. Most ATVs are designed for one person at a time. Carrying a passenger can make them very difficult to control and be very dangerous.
- Maintain proper maintenance. A pre-ride checklist can help make sure your ATV is functioning properly and safe to drive. The fuel and oil, tires, brakes, steering, chain, radiator, and battery are a few things you'll want to consider checking.
- Check your insurance. Make sure it is up-to-date. Contact your local State Farm agent if you need information about insuring your ATV.
On the Trail
- Carry a communication device. A cell phone or walkie-talkie is good to have along in the event of an emergency, especially if riding alone.
- Ride at proper speed. ATVs can be unstable and difficult to maneuver when driven too fast for conditions. To avoid flipping, maintain proper speed for the terrain, especially on uneven ground. Also be cautious when approaching hills, turns, and obstacles.
- No tricks or stunts. They might look fun and easy on TV, but they are extremely dangerous and best left to the experts. Most injuries occur when ATVs are operated improperly.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. They can greatly impair judgment and reaction time and may lead to serious accident or injury.
- Drive in appropriate settings. ATVs are not designed to be driven on paved roads. Doing so can be dangerous and is where many fatalities occur. Stay off-road and operate only on safe terrain.
Children and ATVs
- Never let children drive adult ATVs. Children under 16 are twice as likely to be injured riding adult ATVs than those who operate youth ATVs. If you allow your child to ride an ATV, make sure you follow the manufacturer's minimum age recommendation warning label.
- Determine your child's readiness. Operating an ATV requires the rider to recognize and react to all sorts of potential hazards. Factors to consider include the physical, social, emotional, and motor development of your child, as well as the ability to make sound decisions. The ATV Safety Institute has a safety booklet (PDF) that includes a readiness checklist to help you make an informed decision about your child's readiness.
- Closely monitor. Children on ATVs should be supervised at all times to make sure they are operating them safely. If not, you may want to reconsider their ability and judgment to safely operate an ATV.
- Educate yourself and your child. Make sure you both have proper training on how to safely operate an ATV. An ATV injury prevention checklist (PDF) can help you get started.
No matter what your age, riding level, or years of experience operating an ATV, it is always smart to be prepared and remember basic safety rules. There's no reason why off-roading can't be an enjoyable experience for everyone.
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