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How To Stay Safe On ATVs

Apr 3, 2008
Hank knew better. But his little grandson, Steven, was so persuasive, and even though he was only eight years old, he was darned good at driving an ATV.

What harm could there be in letting the little rascal drive himself and his sister two miles back to the barn while Hank followed in the pickup? It was a remote road, and Steven promised to drive slowly.

It all would have worked out perfectly, except that Steven was too small to see over the rise as he approached the intersection. He never saw the car that struck the ATV, sending him and his sister to the hospital.

No one died in that collision, but Hank "died a thousand deaths" as he watched it happen.

Today, about seven million people ride ATVs for work and pleasure in the U.S. Each year, over 125,000 injuries requiring emergency room treatment happen to people riding ATVs.

In recent years, ATV-related deaths exceeded 700 annually. About 25 percent of the deaths occur to children under age 16.

Riding Tips

ATVs are good for sport and work, but they are used on terrain that can be unforgiving, like tree roots and rocks. Here are a few tips to keep you safe:

* Before taking your first ride, enroll in a sanctioned rider training course. Call the ATV Safety Institute at 800-887-2887 for details.

* Read and follow the owner's manual and warning labels.

* Inspect the mechanical condition of the ATV before riding.

* Practice in a safe area before driving on more difficult terrain.

* ATVs are intended for off-road use only. Never operate one on public roads or paved surfaces.

* Do not carry passengers.

* Never ride when tired, or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise.

* Use existing trails if possible.

* Do not operate the ATV at excessive speeds.

* Never ride beyond the limit of your visibility.

* Be alert for hidden wires.

* If a hill looks too steep to climb, it probably is.

* Ride only where you have permission to ride.

* Avoid three-wheeled ATVs, which are not made anymore.

Dress The Part

* To ride safely, you should dress safely. Anytime you jump on your ATV, you should be wearing:

-A motorcycle helmet approved by the Department of Transportation. This is your most important piece of protective gear.

-Goggles or face shield.

-Boots. Over-the-calf style with low heels to keep your feet from slipping off the footrests.

-Off-highway style gloves padded over the knuckles.
-Long pants.
-A long-sleeved shirt or jacket.

Young Riders

Young people have a natural affinity for ATVs. They are small, fast, and look like great fun. When they are used properly, they are safe. At which age children should begin riding them depends on training and judgment. Before turning a young person loose on an ATV:

* Ask yourself if your child is strong enough and mature enough to operate an ATV.

* If the answer to both is yes, you must match your child to the proper size ATV. For instance, kids under the age of 16 should not operate an adult-sized ATV. Discuss this with your dealer. As a basic rule, kids:

-6 years to 12 years should drive an engine under 70 cc.

-12 years to 16 years - from 70 to 90 cc.

* Enroll your child in a special, hands-on training course, and take the course yourself. Call the 800 number above for details.

* To be an effective coach and overseer, you must be familiar with the ATV. Your best source of information is the owner's manual. Review it with your child.

* To be sure your child knows the workings of his or her ATV:

-Have them show you the location of the parking brake, brakes, throttle control lever, engine stop switch, and shift lever (if equipped).

-Have them show you how the controls work.

-Ask them to operate the controls as if they are riding. And do it without looking at the controls.

-In short, be convinced your child can safely operate the ATV!

* Supervise your child's operation of the ATV at all times.
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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