All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have become important pieces of equipment for outdoor enthusiasts seeking to explore everything from farmland to remote backcountry. ATVs can travel off-road, up and down hills, between trees, over rocky ground and through mud and shallow water.
But, they may also be dangerous if not used properly. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were more than 101,000 ATV-related injuries that resulted in emergency room visits in 2016. To help make the most of your next ride (and to do it safely), consider these tips from the ATV Safety Institute:
1. Inspect Before You Ride
Similar to the T-CLOCS inspection checklist used by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the ATV Safety Institute recommends riders employ its T-CLOC checklist. This can help riders remember the important steps when inspecting the major areas of their ATV. The acronym stands for:
- T: Tires and wheels. Check air pressure, tire condition and make sure axle nuts are secure.
- C: Controls and cables. Make sure the controls, throttle, brakes and other cables work smoothly and effectively.
- L: Lights and electrics. Check the condition and operation of the ignition and stop switches, as well as the vehicle’s headlights and taillights.
- O: Oil and fuel. Make sure the fuel and oil are at the proper levels for your trip and check for leaks and the condition of the air filter.
- C: Chain/driveshaft and chassis. Inspect the condition of the chain/driveshaft and make sure all nuts, bolts, and fasteners are tight and secure.
2. Know the Laws
Laws regarding ATV usage and regulations for safety equipment can vary from state to state. As a rough guideline of state laws, consult this list from the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America and contact your local government office for specific information.
3. Obey the Golden Rules
Before going for a ride, consider the “Golden Rules” of safety from the ATV Safety Institute. They include:
- Wear proper safety gear and clothing, including a Department of Transportation approved helmet.
- Don’t drive on paved roads other than crossing them in legal locations.
- Never ride an ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Don’t try to carry more passengers than your ATV is rated for.
- Ride an age-appropriate ATV.
- ATV riders under the age of 16 should be supervised by an adult.
- Only ride on designated ATV-friendly trails and at safe speeds.
- Consider taking an ATV safety course.
4. Use Common Courtesy
Sometimes, designated ATV trails can cross both public and private land, and to help keep the trails open and well-maintained, riders should follow some simple rules for respect. The ATV Safety Institute recommends:
- Learn about the area you will ride in. If possible, get maps of the area to help you stay on the trail(s).
- Leave gates and fences the way you found them.
- Obey all trail markers and signs. This is both for courtesy and your own safety.
- Leave the area as clean as you found it, or cleaner. Consider bringing a plastic bag and pick up litter along the way.
- If you meet a landowner along the way, get off your vehicle and take your helmet off. Approaching someone while wearing your helmet may be intimidating.
- Be courteous to other trail riders. In addition to other ATV riders, trails may be used by hikers and horseback riders. Give the right of way to these other trail users, and turn off your engine for horses, says the ATV Safety Institute.
- Be cautious around livestock or wildlife. Some trails pass through areas where cattle roam. Move slowly and carefully, giving them as wide a berth as possible.
- Keep your ATV as quiet as you can. Consider simple maintenance and repair tasks prior to a trail ride to help reduce excess noise.
Following these tips may help you be safe and enjoy your next ATV adventure.