Wear the appropriate gear. Quit complaining about a helmet being uncomfortable, or heaven forbid, “un-cool.” Purchase a helmet that is comfortable and meets Department of Transportation safety ratings. At the very least, wear long pants and sturdy closed toe shoes, if not riding specific pants, boots and gloves. The less exposed area to get road rash in case of an accident, the better.

Communicate where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. Notify someone that isn’t going out riding with you where you plan on going, and what time you plan on returning. In case of an accident, equipment failure or the chance that you forget where the truck’s parked, having a buddy ready to come looking for you can mean the difference between a night in the woods or a cold beer at home.

Know your limits and your machine. When riding a new ATV, take the time to familiarize yourself with the machine before heading out. Know how to start, stop, shift and maneuver the vehicle before you’re left in the dust. Always consider your skill and comfort level when riding. Don’t be pressured into riding on terrain where you’re not confident in your ability to handle the ATV.

Avoid riding on public roads. In the instance that your route must take you on Forest Service or other public roads, always ride at a safe speed and stay as far to the right as possible. Approach blind corners with caution and remember that a pick-up truck could be looming around any turn. Never ride on paved roads, as ATVs are difficult to maneuver on hard surfaces.

Leave the booze at home. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The same rules apply here, just as they do with any other vehicle. Riding under the influence is a danger to you and the people around you. Save the beers for a BBQ back at home after the ATVs are parked in the garage.

Never ride double on single rider ATVs. Most ATVs are designed for a single rider and require the driver to be able to shift their body weight fluidly. For the safety of drivers and passengers, ride double only on vehicles intended for two riders.

Sounds simple, right? However, in the heat of the moment all of us have neglected one safety rule or another in a rush to get out and have some fun on four wheels. Take the time to slow down, think your decisions through and value the safety of you and your friends while out riding. Enjoy your ATV, but remember that you can’t ride dead and hospital bills eat up the money you could be using for gas. Be safe out there!

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