If you enjoy slinging a little mud then you owe it to yourself to venture off the beaten path and experience the freedom and fun, which comes from taking an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) on the road less traveled. If you have not tried off-roading ATV style, you should.
ATVs are a lot of fun. However, there are serious risks associated with riding ATVs and accidents, unfortunately, do happen. The fact is, ATVs are not hard to operate but how they handle certain terrain combined with uneducated, inexperienced or even dangerous operators can spell big trouble. Before you know it, you may find yourself in a survival situation. Knowing how to ride an ATV, and what precautions you need to pay attention to, can help you avoid an accident.
Unlike a car, which offers a seatbelt, protection from steel doors, windshield and a dashboard with airbags, an ATV does not. Therefore, you cannot operate them like you would your car. Over the last decade, manufacturers, law enforcement, state agencies and the ATV community have come together to raise awareness of the dangers associated with unsafe ATV riding practices. For example, there are currently 11 states that offer ATV safety courses, several of which require mandatory courses and it appears more states will soon be jumping on board to require operators to take some form of ATV safety course.
ATVs come in all shapes and sizes and are designed to perform a variety of duties from racing to farm work. When shopping for an ATV it is important to know what type will best suit your needs. After you have purchased your ride it is critical to know how to ride it safely.
Here is a list of questions to consider before you go off-roading.
- Can I handle the specific size and potential speed of the ATV I plan to use?
- Have I received specific instructions on how to ride an ATV safely?
- What is my experience level?
- Does my state require me to take an ATV Safety Course? Even if your state does not, it is still a good idea to take a course.
- Do I have the proper safety gear necessary to ride an ATV such as a helmet, boots or jacket?
- Do I have proper storage accessories to carry a gun or bow if I use them?
- Is the ATV I am using suitable for the terrain I may encounter?
- Do I have safety and first-aid gear on board?
- Have I informed others where I will be riding and what time to expect me home?
- Do I have a means to signal for help if I encounter a problem?
- Did I perform a pre-ride inspection?
Thanks to the increased interest in off-roading, there are lots of ATV-friendly places to visit. From Washington to the tip of Florida, and nearly every state in between, you can find a place to ride. If are looking for trails near home, usually a phone call to your local ATV dealer will be worth your effort.
Although there are plenty of accessible trails across the United States, there is one important rule to remember: “not all trails are created equal and not all ATVs are created equal.”
On some public and private lands it is unlawful to take your ATV off designated trails due to the possible damage ATV wheels can cause to the terrain. As with anything, it is your responsibility to know not only how to safely ride your ATV, but the rules of where you can ride.