All-terrain vehicles are a terrific way to tackle off-roading adventures. Most ATVs are four-wheel drive and a stable way to maneuver the back roads. They are built more for stability than speed. According to the ATV Safety Institute, "more than 35 million Americans ride all-terrain vehicles. Besides recreational use, ATVs also serve agriculture and a wide variety of industries."
Although built differently and with other purposes in mind, ATVs are often included in a category with sport quads, dune buggies and utility terrain vehicles, or UTVs. Dirt bikes and trail-riding motorcycles are other options for off-road explorations. Sport quads are built with two-wheel drive and offer more speed than four-wheel drive ATVs. Dune buggies are built for the beach and sand and can accommodate an adult with a small child for family fun. UTVs are a cross between an ATV and a small pickup truck, with seating for two or more.
ATVs and sport quads are meant for one rider only, unless they are specifically outfitted with a second seat (as UTVs and dune buggies are). Carrying a second person is dangerous. Though each ATV is built for just one person, riding with a friend on his or her own ATV is recommended, especially when navigating isolated off-road trails. Stay on designated trails, and refrain from showcasing, racing or other high jinks. Be real about the condition of the rider. Drinking and riding don't mix. The rider should be well-rested and not under the influence of any medications that can cause sleepiness, cause sluggishness or reduce alertness. Children under 16 should not be permitted to ride ATVs meant for adults.
Make sure you do a thorough inspection of your ride before you start your trip. Check the tires and rims for the proper inflation, excess wear or any visible damage. Carrying a tire repair kit with tire plugs and inflation pump will help if you get a flat on your trip; the affected tire should be replaced as soon as possible. Make sure that all cables and connections are intact. Chains and sprockets should be properly lubricated and in good condition. If your ATV has a two-stroke engine, check your owners manual for the specific mix of gasoline and oil needed; four-stroke engines do not need oil mixed in with the gas. Check weather conditions before you head out so you are not caught in a surprise storm. Be sure to maintain your ATV after each ride and clean it off, especially if it's covered in mud.
Don't forget to wear your safety gear; it could be a lifesaver. Helmets, goggles, boots and gloves will help protect you if you have a mishap with the ATV. Rollovers are more common than you would like. ATVs are not equipped with seat belts or roll bars. Helmets need to be properly sized for all riders and should fit snuggly, but not too tightly. Measure your head size and try on helmets beginning with the size just below that. Different brands size their helmets differently, so don't assume a helmet fits without trying it on first. Heavy jackets will help protect you from road rash in a mishap. Carrying a cellphone is a good idea, just in case something happens and you need to call for help.
*Staying in the Know
It's important to know your state's regulations regarding all-terrain vehicles and registrations. Some states require motor vehicle licenses, have minimum ages, require certain equipment and require certified safety training before you can ride. Most states require helmet usage. Some states have restrictions regarding on-road usage of ATVs.
Several ATV dealerships have trained sales personnel who can help you decide on the best purchase for your needs and may also provide training onsite.
Many ATV rental sites follow local guidelines when it comes to age restriction and driver certification, and many also offer safety instruction. Several rental sites also offer guided rides, equipment use and other amenities and could be an enjoyable family vacation activity.
For the ATV RiderCourse nearest you, call 800-887-2887. For more information, contact the ATV Safety Institute by calling 949-727-3727 or visiting http://www.atvsafety.org.