The number of ATV riders increase every day in the United States, as does the accidents associated with them.
Every year more and more people take to the trail not on foot, horse or bike, but instead they climb on board an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) or Utility Terrain Vehicle (UTV).
Many outdoor enthusiasts are still getting used to sharing the trails with this new breed of conveyance. However, acting responsibly can go a long way to helping blend the worlds of these various forms of nature enjoyment.
According to the ATV Safety Institute (ASI), over 3,498 people have died in accidents associated with ATVs since 2004. This statistic includes numerous children.
Every month thousands of people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries received while riding an ATV. Many of these people become severely paralyzed or suffer some other severe internal injury due to accidents.
There are a few important things to remember when venturing onto the trail with an ATV/UTV.
What Can I Do?
As an instructor for ASI in ATV safety, I encourage all ATV owners to seek out and attend an ATV training course. Many manufacturers offer a free course with the purchase of a new ATV.
These courses cover everything you need to understand and ride an ATV. You will learn basic mechanical checks for the machine as well as how to ride over obstacles, hills, ditches, and trail riding.
Without going into great detail on how to ride in this article, we will cover a few important riding strategies.
Strategy is the Key to Safety and Success
Learn to read the terrain. Choose proper places to ride and stay on established trails. Be aware of terrain you do not belong on such as steeper slopes, impassable swamps and other hazardous situations.
You need to be able to observe and understand the features of the land. This includes surface conditions and composition, tree stumps, rocks, etc.
Watch well ahead on the trail and know what is coming. Be ready to respond before you need to.
SIPDE Will Save Your Life
Scan or search the terrain. Keep your eyes moving and check the overall environment.
Identify Hazards. Pick out specific problems such as surface composition, other trail users and wildlife.
Predict what will happen. Think of the consequences of what will happen as a result of your actions.
Decide what to do. Slow down and choose proper speed so there is time to respond. Always choose to reduce risk. Choose to stay within the realm of your personal limits and the limits of your machine.
Execute your decision. Adjust technique, speed and path of travel.
Put It to Use
There are more and more trails popping up across the country for ATV use and many allow overnight camping while on the trail.
Many of the same considerations for hiking should also be taken when riding an ATV.
Be sure to prepare a detailed trip plan and let someone know where you will be riding as well as when you expect to return. Be sure to take along adequate water, food and a first aid kit.
ATVs and UTVs can be great fun in the outdoors. However, no one wants to become a statistic.
Ride smart. Ride safely. Ride trained. Choose to have understanding of the machine you use and gain that understanding from a trained instructor.
Remember, no matter how you choose to spend your time this season, don't leave the outdoors out. Make it a part of every season.