All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) can be an incredibly fun way to spend time outside, but they can turn disastrous really fast—especially if you aren’t prepared or trained to ride them properly.
Recently, a man from Bluffton, IN was killed from a critical ATV crash-related injury—at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, police and medics were called to a field near County Roads 600 North and 100 West on the town’s north side, where 24-year-old Christopher M. Penrod was operating an ATV when he struck a large metal post and was ejected from the vehicle. Penrod was taken to a Fort Wayne hospital in critical condition and passed away at around 6 p.m. the next day.
To help prevent an ATV ride from turning tragic, the right precautions can be taken to ensure that you’re more secure on your vehicle. Here are ten tips to make your next drive a safer one.
- Buy an ATV with built-in precautions.
If you’re in the market for a new ATV, look for one that has coil springs and shock absorbers in order to increase the stability of your vehicle, an automatic transmission to reduce the risk of rear overturns from “popping the clutch,” and only buy rear carrying racks on adult-sized ATVs—having a rear carrying rack on a child-sized ATV creates unsafe weight distribution which can easily result in an overturn.
- Check the weather forecast.
Extreme temperatures, snow, rain, hail, or other factors can ruin a ride, but if you get stranded in severe heat or in a blizzard, what starts as an inconvenience can turn into a life-threatening situation. Play it safe by staying home whenever triple-digit temperatures, negative wind chill, low visibility, or incoming storms are present in the forecast.
- Use common sense.
Outside of just driving safely, traveling with maps or a GPS on hand is always a good idea if you’re going far. Leave your route with someone you trust and put down a specific time that you and whoever you’re with should be back—and instructions for what to do if you aren’t. Using common sense also means don’t practice excessive speeding, stay on designated trails and paved roads, stay clear of water, and never drive anything under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Use the buddy system.
Most ATVs are made for one rider—adding a passenger can mess up the weight distribution of the ATV and increase the risk of an overturn. However, just because you need to ride your own ATV solo doesn’t mean that you can’t bring other off-roaders (with their own vehicles) with you. It’s actually really good practice to ride with at least one other off-roader. (No tailgating!)
- Dress appropriately.
You can put all the safety bells and whistles on your ATV you want—and you can put some on yourself, too! Dressing safely for ATV riding means a helmet with a full face shield or goggles, non-slip hightop shoes, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants.
- Learn how to ride your ATV properly.
Go back to driver’s ed for a little while and take a training course on driving your ATV to maximize your knowledge of how it works, how to manage it, and how to stay your safest while out for a drive. From negotiating turns to navigating hills to dodging obstacles, make sure you’re aware of what can happen during a ride and also read through the owner’s manual of your ATV if you haven’t already. Check out references on the ATV Safety Institute’s site for more information.
- Supervise new riders.
For new riders (especially children), experienced supervision is a must. You can also buy supervisory controls to help limit a new rider’s capabilities before you need to play damage control—these controls include throttle limiters, exhaust restrictors, and remote shut-off switches.
- Don’t overload the rear carrier.
Adding too much weight to the rear carrier offsets the weight distribution and can easily cause a rear overturn and flip your ATV backward—particularly if you attempt to drive up an incline. Carry less than one-third of your ATV’s weight in the rear carrier rack and only hitch to manufacturer-supplied hitch points to maintain a safe angle of pull.
- Avoid sharp turns.
When you’re driving an ATV, an understanding of gravity and centrifugal force is your friend. Not grasping those principles could be the difference between a smooth ride and a rollover. Keep yourself from overturning sideways by avoiding jerky steering, high speeds, and reckless driving on rough terrain. Try to also keep towed load amounts less than the combined weight of you and your ATV.
- Never drive on roads.
Unless you’re only on the road to cross over it, don’t be on the road at all. It’s prohibited to drive ATVs on roads and there are quite a few other laws regarding ATVs in most states. Most laws vary state-by-state, and they’re something you need to look into if you’re planning to drive an ATV. From age restrictions to helmet laws, familiarize yourself with the rules before you ride to avoid a crash or a citation (or both).
Being safe doesn’t take the fun out of going for a ride on an ATV. In fact, it might make it more fun when you’re not worried about getting hurt or damaging your vehicle. If you’ve been the victim of a personal injury due to an ATV or similar vehicle, contact Boughter Sinak, LLC today.