Riding all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are a way to get outside and have fun when the weather is good. Whether you’re out riding on the trails or around your own property, follow key safety measures to avoid injuries.
An ATV is a motor vehicle weighing less than 900 pounds with three or more low-pressure tires. In Wisconsin, anyone operating an ATV should be age 12 and older and have completed a safety course. Wisconsin state law requires you to carry the safety certificate with you while using an ATV in public areas.
Choose the right size ATV
When selecting your ATV, drive one the right size for your weight. Adolescents will have better control with a smaller machine. You should only have one passenger to allow for proper balance. Accidents can happen with two riders if it’s not built for more than one person. “Rollovers are more common with two riders due to the shift in weight,” said Liz Kracht, injury prevention coordinator with Marshfield Clinic Health System.
Protect yourself with the right gear
At Marshfield Medical Center, “Alcohol use, speed and not using the right safety gear are the leading causes of accidents,” Kracht said.
Riders should wear a full-face helmet with eye protection, long sleeves or jacket, gloves and boots. Wear a helmet designed for ATV use. A bicycle helmet does not offer enough protection since it does not have the full face guard. Wearing a helmet while on private property isn’t required by law, but is recommended. “Helmets are my number one recommendation. Protect your brain,” Kracht said. “You are more likely to be able to recover from injuries when you wear a helmet.”
Respect ATVs like any other vehicle
A misconception is ATVs are safer since you don’t have to be 16-years-old to operate one. “Some people think of ATVs like a toy and don’t treat them as seriously,” Kracht said.
Drive using speeds where you can safely control the machine and navigate your surroundings. Paved surfaces are more dangerous than trails because ATV tires are not made for flat surfaces. Because of this, they can go faster and have less traction and control. Respect traffic and rules of the road. “Remember, you are a lot smaller than the other vehicles,” Kracht said. “You will take more damage in a collision.”
It’s illegal to operate an ATV under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Being under the influence can impair your decision-making, reaction times and balance.
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