Think about this. Way back in 1970, Honda rolled out the first ATV, a 90cc three-wheeler that had a mind blowing seven horsepower engine and sold for a modest $595. Today, the machines go up to a giant 850cc, cost in excess of $10,000, and there are about 10.5 million ATVs in use today. Not bad for a product that was thought of as a way to fill in a sales void in the winter when no one was buying motorcycles. Much has changed in the production of theses machines, but little has changed in how we ride them.
Many people complain about safety equipment being hot and uncomfortable. However, it’s a lot more comfortable to sweat than to bleed. A cap, sunglasses, t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops are not the “in” thing as far as ATV safety equipment goes. The helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment you can buy. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, you have a 64% better chance of survival wearinga helmet than without. Choose a helmet that is DOT, ANSI, or Snell certified and buy the best you can afford. One of the granddaddies of ATV safety, former MFBF Safety Director Mike Blankenship, said it best, “If you have a cheap head, get a cheap helmet.” That’s sound advice. Eye protection is another key piece of safety equipment that is often overlooked. Most riders consider sunglasses as eye protection. Not so. The lenses need to meet the ANSI Z-87 standard like safety glasses and goggles. A helmet that has a face shield also can do a good job in protecting the rider. Remember, we only have two eyes and we need to protect them. The right clothing is something that is often ignored as far as ATV riders go. Leather gloves and a long sleeve shirt help to protect the hands and arms from the sun and prevent injury. Bright colored clothing is also useful in protecting the rider by making them more visible. The last two pieces of safety equipment are long pants and boots. These will protect one from the heat of the motor and other objects that may brush the rider. Over the ankle boots with a heel will keep the rider’s feet on the foot rest and foot pegs.
It’s against the law to ride an ATV on public roads. These machines are not designed to operate on paved services and automobile operators are not looking for ATV riders on the road. ATVs are hard to see because of the lack of lights and the smaller machines sit lower to the ground. The tires of an ATV are made for gripping the terrain and it handle differently on hard surfaces. Public roads are the most dangerous place to ride. A majority of deaths on ATVs happen on public roads.
Most of the deaths in children under the age of 16 are due to having an extra rider on the ATV. A lot of riders don’t realize that having an extra rider affects how the machine handles. The big seat is a rider active seat, so the rider can move front and back or side to side. The extra rider offsets the weight of the machine and how it handles. The machine has only one seat, so there should only be one rider.
As parents, we go out and buy the biggest and fastest ATV we can afford and forget that these machines are not toys. The smallest ones are made to travel around 20 mph and the fastest ones are made to travel in excess of 100 mph. That’s not a toy. Most young riders are not big enough, strong enough, or experienced enough to operate the big machines. The recommended sizes for riders ages 12-16 is 90 cc, for riders ages 6-12 is 50 cc, and children under 6 should not ride ATVs at all. Remember, the machine should fit the rider. It’s a lot cheaper to buy an ATV that fits the rider than to pay for a funeral.
Many of the accidents that occur on ATVs are due to an inexperienced rider losing control. One of the best ways to prevent an ATV accident is to take an ATV rider’s course. These courses teach the operator the proper techniques of riding the ATV. Taking a quality rider’s course can improve how you ride and how you enjoy the ride. Contact your local dealer for details on the course.
Think about this. If we take the time to think about how we ride ATVs, it might change the way others ride. So the next time you ride, take time to think about it.