How Safe is Your ATV?


By Diane Tait

Image courtesy Max Pixel
All-Terrain Vehicles have become popular to outdoor enthusiasts.  Unfortunately, as the popularity of the sport has increased, so have the injuries and fatalities.  Last year alone there were 21 fatalities in Florida alone.  Add to that statistic the hundreds of injuries that occur each and every year to riders, some of whom are ill-equipped and under-trained to safely operate an ATV, and you have a recipe for disaster.  In order to promote off-road safety, I decided to dedicate this week’s blog to ATV safety tips. 

      1.      Take an ATV safety course – Just as you would never consider allowing a person to drive drive your car who wasn’t licensed, it’s a wise ATV owner who would never consider allowing an untrained rider to borrow their off-road vehicle.  Even licensed car and motorcycle drivers are unqualified when it comes to the safe operation of an ATV.  That’s because the wild and woolly conditions routinely faced by off-road enthusiasts are a world away from those met on any paved roads.  While it’s true that a driver may have to deal with an occasional animal such as a deer crossing a paved road, ATV riders routinely contend with everything from wildlife skittering across their path to low hanging limbs that could easily knock them off their quads.  Backwoods trails can also be peppered with dips, ruts, fallen logs and a myriad of other safety issues that the typical driver never sees.  That’s why attending a supervised training course is a good idea for any new ATV owner.


     2.      Always wear a helmet – While adult ATV riders in Florida aren’t required to wear a helmet, if you read the paragraph above, you know that both head, eye and ankle protection is a good idea any time you ride off-road in an open vehicle.  The potential for ejection from an ATV is far greater than that of a motorcycle. 

     
Image courtesy wikimedia
3.     
Know the lawAs defined by Florida statute 317.0003, an ATV is defined as a motorized off-highway vehicle or all-terrain vehicle 50-inches or less in width, weighing less than 1,200 pounds intended for use by a single operator. In Florida it’s illegal to operate an ATV on a paved road, except to cross one on an approved trail.  It’s also illegal to carry a passenger on an ATV unless the vehicle has been specifically designed by the manufacturer to carry two riders. Violation of the law is subject to fine and possible prohibition to ride on public lands.  It’s also unlawful to operate an ATV under the influence of alcohol, or to ride in a careless or reckless manner that injures or causes injury to another person or property. 
   
      4.      Are ATVs kid-safe? – Another thing you need to know is that ATVs are NOT toys.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children under the ag of 16 NOT be allowed to operate an ATV.  However, the final decision is up to the parents.  If you search the web, it won’t take you long to find numerous stories and videos that detail in gruesome detail accounts of children who have lost their lives while operating quads.  Just as children are less risk-averse and far less coordinated than most adults, as a parent you have to realize going in that putting your child behind the wheel of a motor vehicle of any kind is hazardous.  Even a 70cc quad may prove difficult for a child to handle on rough terrain.  The mechanics of shifting weight to corner, not to mention judging a safe operating speed and stopping distance could be beyond your child’s ability to judge.  Even though you are going to be riding along with them, should your child fail to maneuver around an obstacle that you would have little trouble avoiding, the consequences could be severe.

      5.      Inspect your ATV prior to riding – Another potential peril to ATV riders can be their own vehicle.  While all-terrain vehicles are designed for off-road travel, bear in mind that riding on rough trails takes a toll on the vehicle.  Fittings can work loose from vibration and components can become fatigued to the point of failure.  Just as no pilot would consider taking off in an airplane that hadn’t undergone a pref-light inspection, no sensible ATV owner should consider heading off-road without thoroughly inspecting their quad.  Take a good hard look at the tires and wheel alignment.  Check the frame for any cracks or dents.   Inspect the lug nuts, pivot ball, axle nut, wheel hubs, skid plate and sprocket bolts, to verify they’re not damaged and are on tight.  Only once you’re sure your quad is safe to operate should you take it off-road.

Image courtesy Pixabay
      6.      Practice safe riding – One of the biggest dangers can be the riders themselves.  Hotdogging on an ATV can prove deadly.  But even operating a quad under normal conditions can result in an accident if you aren’t careful. More riders are injured when cornering or going up or down hills than when going airborne.  When going uphill you need to shift your weight forward and when going downhill you need to shift your weight aft.  Another danger is being thrown from a quad by applying the brakes either too hard or too late.  Remember, trees aren’t likely to break your fall, they’re far more likely to break your bones.  When riding in a group always maintain a safe distance, especially on hilly terrain.

      7.      What to do if you are in an ATV accident – If you or anybody you’re riding with should be involved in an accident, your first responsibility is to seek medical assistance as soon as possible.  Particularly if the accident resulted in broken bones or head trauma, the longer you wait to summon help, the more likely that complications could ensue.  The next thing you should do is to contact the police.  Above all, do not leave the scene of an accident or you could wind up being charged.  Also avoid moving the quad more than necessary to extricate the injured rider.  Once the injured parties have been stabilized, it’s a good idea to take pictures of the scene and to collect the names, addresses, insurance information and phone numbers of any witnesses.  Call your insurance company to report the accident if you or your quad was in any way involved.

The bottom line when it comes to answering the question of How safe is an ATV?  It all depends on how safe its owner is.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on auto, motorcycle or ATV  insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.

Comments

  1. When it comes to off-roading, safety should always come first.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Insurance protection for ATV's starting at $100 per year.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Whether young or an adult, driver safety training can save lives.

    ReplyDelete

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