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Illinois Country Living

Safety & Health:

Ken Macken
Ken Macken, Manger of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

ATV safety tips to live by
Have a great ride but make sure everyone follows safety rules

It seems like everywhere you look these days most everyone on the farm is using all terrain vehicles – ATVs. On my father-in-law’s farm there are three ATVs that we use each time we visit them in Oklahoma. They are extremely popular on the farm and for hunters and even some electric co-ops use them for special jobs. But as with so many things, ATVs can also be very dangerous and the need for safety with these vehicles is paramount.

More and more these days, riders of ATVs are injured or even killed when their ATV wrecks. Safety equipment and proper training is especially important for teenagers or in-experienced operators. Teenagers are especially less likely to practice safe conduct while operating ATVs and one mistake can lead to a lifetime of paralysis.

Keep in mind that Quad/ATVs are just as dangerous as cars, motorcycles, trucks, or sport utility vehicles, so only operate them using the proper techniques, safety equipment and procedures. Although ATVs can provide a fun way to spend time in the great outdoors, many riders forget how dangerous they can be.

Simply follow these practical safety tips when riding any Quad/ATV, to get the best possible experience from your machine, and to keep you as safe as you can possibly be:

1. Only drivers over the age of 16 should operate an ATV alone.

2. Always wear protective gear including a seat belt.

Just like operating a motorcycle or bike, riding a Quad/ATV requires you use proper protective gear. ALWAYS wear a helmet. Most serious or fatal accidents occur when the rider is not wearing a helmet and falls on his or her head. A helmet may not be the most stylish accessory, but they can literally save your life. Also, since most riders operate Quad/ATVs in wooded environments, be sure to wear proper eye protection, as a rock, branch, or even a bug can fly into your eye and cause damage. Furthermore, be sure to wear boots and gloves to protect your hands and feet while operating the Quad/ATV.

3. Only one rider per vehicle.

ATVs are designed for only one rider at a time (unless otherwise stated). Since you have to manipulate your weight in order to control the vehicle, two riders on a vehicle is incredibly dangerous! Also, the Quad/ATV may be unable to successfully hold the combined weight of two riders, making it less stable and more apt to roll over. Finally, having an additional rider can distract the driver from the task of properly operating the vehicle

4. Ride Quads/ATVs in appropriate settings.

When it comes to where to ride your Quad/ATV, ensure you choose a proper setting. Avoid roads and streets, since Quad/ATVs are not designed nor intended to be driven on concrete or asphalt with larger cars and trucks. Also, avoid improper terrain that may encourage the Quad/ATV to roll over due to instability in the ground.

5. Do not speed.

ATVs are designed to go a certain speed safely. Increasing the speed — especially through certain terrains — decreases your control and the vehicle’s stability, making you more prone to have an accident. Avoid larger loose rocks and the slopes of hills, these can cause the ATV/Quad to flip over unexpectedly and could trap you under the machine.

6. Do not operate a Quad/ATV impaired.

Many adults find themselves tempted to operate a Quad/ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even over the counter or prescription medications can impair your reaction time, thinking process, and judgment, so be sure to avoid operating an ATV during this time. Just like drinking and driving, alcohol and Quad/ATV driving does not mix.

7. Carry a communication device with you at all times.

Quad/ATV riders should be sure to carry a mobile phone or walkie-talkie with them at all times so that they can call for help in the event of an emergency. This is especially true if you are riding alone, which is not encouraged. Whenever you plan to ride your Quad/ATV, you should either have another individual with you or notify someone of where you are going and when you plan to return.

8. For God's sake use common sense.

This final safety tip is by far the best. Your common sense can carry you a long way, especially involving your safety.

Look about you, remember your surroundings, know how far from other people/riders you are, be constantly aware of your riding area, this could just save your or someone else’s life. ATVs are awesome machines and can be so helpful in so many different settings. Let’s be smart as to who uses them and how they are used. With privilege comes responsibility and that is even true in what we drive.

Have a safe ride!

Ken Macken is Manger of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives,, 217-241-7933.


© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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