With thousands of miles of trails throughout the state available for riding, all-terrain vehicles continue to grow in popularity as a way for people of all ages to experience the outdoors. For some folks, an ATV is a convenient means for getting from Point A to Point B. The journey itself is the goal for other riders, who simply enjoy the experience of riding through the fields and woods.
Whatever the reason for riding, there are a variety of steps ATV riders can take to reduce the potential for accidents or injuries and ensure a safe and successful ride.
The golden rules of ATV safety
Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
Always wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves and DOT-compliant helmets.
Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law. ATVs are classified as off-highway vehicles.
Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV. Carry no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.
Ride an ATV that’s right for your size.
Actively supervise younger riders. ATVs are not toys.
If an ATV comes factory-rigged with seatbelts, wear them.
Take a hands-on and online safety course.
Keys for youth ATV safety
Active supervision – set the ground rules
If a child can control a bike without any problems, it may be a good time to try an ATV.
Youth under age 16 must have permission from their parent or guardian to operate an ATV. Even when permission is granted, active supervision is a must. Youth riders may be able to start and stop an ATV, but lack the experience to respond to something unexpected. Setting ground rules reinforces the serious nature and responsibility that comes with operating an ATV. Allow youth to ride only after they demonstrate they can follow directions and wear their protective gear.
ATV fit – one size does not fit all
ATVs intended for use by adults (16 years and older) are larger, heavier and have greater speed and performance capabilities than youth models. Children under 16 and capable of driving ATVs should ride a smaller model, with speeds limited accordingly.
Youth age 16 and under must fit the ATV they operate. They should be able to reach the foot pegs while sitting upright on the machine, and be able to reach and control the handlebars. This means they must be able to grip the handlebars and have the ability to move them to the left and right, in addition to operating the throttle and brake lever with one hand. Youth riders also must be able to shift their weight from side to side and from front to back while maintain their balance.
Helmet use and safety gear
Protective gear is a must while operating ATVs. Whether they’re riding Class 1 or Class 2 ATVs, all operators and passengers under the age of 18 must wear DOT-certified helmets. One of the most common violations conservation officers see is people under 18 not wearing helmets, particularly on the larger, Class 2 vehicles.
- Full face shield helmets offer the most protection. They should fit snugly and securely.
- Eye protection is recommended, especially in a wooded areas.
- Over-the-ankle shoes with sturdy, non-slip heels and soles should be worn.
- Long-sleeved shirts or jackets, long pants and gloves all afford protection while riding.