Riding All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) is a popular form of entertainment in the summer, especially for young people. However, it often can be a dangerous pastime if proper safety procedures are not followed. In the wake of several high profile ATV accidents, including the one that severed the spine of Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, a six-time Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer, it is even more important to be reminded of proper safety measures.
- Take a hands-on safety course before ever riding an ATV without an instructor. It is important to know how to handle an ATV in various situations that may occur. Drivers who went through formal training are both more likely to use safety equipment properly and less likely to be seriously injured.
- Always wear protective safety gear, especially helmets. The Department of Transportation recommends that you always wear compliant gloves, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, and a helmet. They are your first line of defense in an accident. A helmet is especially important, because head injuries are among the most serious injuries sustained while on an ATV.
- Never drive ATVs with a passenger or ride on an ATV as a passenger. Almost all ATVs are designed to be for only one person. Interactive riding is critical to keep control of the ATV. Drivers need to be able to control weight distribution and react quickly to terrain or obstacles. This is often not possible with a passenger. If you do have a two-person ATV, never carry more than one passenger.
- Never drive an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Driving an ATV while under the influence is not only dangerous, but also illegal. You need to alert and react quickly on an ATV, which is not possible when impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Don’t drive ATVs on paved roads except to cross roads when safe and permitted by law. ATVs are designed in such a way as to be difficult to control on paved roads. Furthermore, collisions with cars or other vehicles can be deadly for an ATV driver. A majority of deadly ATV accidents happen on paved roads. It is always safer to only use designated off-road areas or ATV trails.
- Use safe speeds on an ATV. While it is fun to go fast on an ATV, you should never go so fast that you lose control of the vehicle. Crashes above recommended ATV speeds are more likely to cause serious injuries or death.
- Ride an age-appropriate ATV. The size of an ATV matters. Children under the age of 16 are involved in about one third of all ATV-related deaths and hospital visits. Most of these occur when a child is using an adult-sized ATV. Children on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding youth ATVs, in large part, because they cannot control the larger vehicle.
Although there is always some risk in using these types of vehicles, the risk is much lower when they are used properly. Simply following these ATV safety procedures could drastically reduce your chance of injury or even save your life.