ATV FOR ME
How to stay safe and enjoy these vehicles
Reina V. Kutner
Creators News Service
Outdoor activities are as varied as hiking to sport fishing, but sometimes you just want to get back to nature at full speed. Luckily, there are All Terrain Vehicles, or ATVs, that can help you journey through the wilderness using high-speed transportation.
"ATVing is a fun outdoor sport because you can involve the whole family and appreciate the outdoors," said Donna Beadle, external relations specialist for Polaris Industries. With child-sized vehicles also available, everyone can get in on the fun.
There are many places where you can rent or buy your vehicle, and then get ready to roll -- on a beach, through a forest or out in the desert. There are even private rider parks for enthusiasts.
"You cover a vast amount of ground in a day and see a lot of nature," Beadle said. She added that it also provides a great workout for the rider, as they are interactive vehicles.
Although there is a lot of fun to be had on ATVs, it's important, as with any outdoor activity, to take precautions. If used improperly, these vehicles could cause head and spinal injuries, as well as severe fractures to the arms and legs that require long-term physical therapy.
"We don't want to take ATVs away from riders," said Sonia Hayes-Pleasant, a spokesperson for the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. "We just want to try to reduce the depths of injuries from ATVs."
According to Hayes-Pleasant, there is an inherent design flaw in that they are top-heavy. This means they can easily tip and roll over. Also, reckless or negligent rider behavior can lead to accidents.
"Each state has different laws pertaining to ATVs," Beadle said. "Riders are advised to check with their state on which trails are ATV-eligible." Do not ride on trails that aren't.
Here are some other tips for riders who want to safely enjoy the off-road experience:
* For children, make sure they are driving an age-appropriate vehicle at a responsible speed. Children under the age of 16 should not be riding adult-sized ATVs. For riders between the ages of 6 and 8, the speed limit is 10 miles per hour. Between the ages of 9 and 11, that limit is 15 mph, and between 12 and 16 they should be riding no faster than 30 mph.
* If an ATV is not meant for two people, then only one person should be on it. "It's not designed for passengers," Hayes-Pleasant said. That could inhibit the ability to safely control the vehicle and put both people in danger. However, there are two-passenger vehicles that allow a younger family member to ride along, said Beadle.
*Wear the proper gear. A helmet should always be worn to protect from head injuries. Goggles keep rocks and dust out of eyes. Over-the-ankle boots prevent foot and ankle injuries. It's also important to wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect the skin.
* Don't drive on paved roads. These vehicles are meant for off-road activities and are difficult to control otherwise. You also risk being hit by a car.
* Take an ATV safety course. Most manufacturers offer them free with the purchase of a vehicle. If you are renting, take an ATV RiderCourse through the ATV Safety Institute. For more information, visit their website at www.atvsafety.org.
* When riding a vehicle, make sure to hold the proper posture. According to atvsafety.org, your head should be straight and looking up, with shoulders relaxed and elbows away from the body. Keep your hands on the handlebars and your feet on the footrests, with toes pointing straight ahead.
* All ATVs have warning labels that talk about procedures and a manual that covers warnings. Make sure you read these carefully.
* Never drive an ATV under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
* Get familiar with the laws of the land. There is a formal government ban on three-wheel ATVs in the United States. For more information on regulations in your area, visit atvsafety.gov.