Since the early 1970’s, ATV (all-terrain vehicle) use has grown year over year. Originally designed as a personal use vehicle, ATVs quickly became useful machines to move through areas not easily accessible by other types of vehicles. Farmers quickly learned their ATVs were a good supplement for pick-up trucks, horses and even walking. They could haul supplies, check fences, inspect crops and livestock, and ride out to outlying fields. A small farm or hobby farm can use an ATV in connection with almost all farming activities. The availability of attachable implements is quite stunning. Oh yes, they are also used for recreation!
ATVs can present safety issues. Since 2001, on average, 665 people die each year. 122 of these are children under the age of 16. Approximately 100,000 people are injured annually. Twelve percent of all fatalities occur on fields, pastures, farmland or ranchland1. Most of these accidents could have been prevented with the property ATV safety training.
In the early years, ATVs were 3-wheeled vehicles and easily susceptible to roll-over. The Consumer Products Safety Commission worked with the ATV industry to ban the sale of 3-wheel ATVs. However, there are still a lot of them out there. It is best to avoid purchasing these used-models.
There is some good news. The number of deaths have declined since 2008. This is likely the result of increased safety training and awareness. In most states, new buyers must complete training and obtain a safety certificate.
For safer riding and use of an ATV, consider the following:
- Check your jurisdiction regarding the need for an ATV to be registered.
- ATVs are not toys – do not allow children under 12 to operate an ATV with engine size over 70cc.
- Children under 16 should not operate ATVs for adults – engines over 90cc.
- Wear appropriate riding gear: e.g. DOT approved helmet, googles, gloves, over-ankle boots, long sleeve shirt and pants.
- Never carry a passenger on ATVs intended for single operators – This could hamper operators ability to steer and control the ATV.
- ATVs are not always easily seen – use lights, reflectors and flags to improve visibility.
- Avoid riding on paved roads due to increased roll-over risk.
- ATVs and alcohol/drugs do not mix – 30% of fatalities are alcohol related.
- Keep arms and legs inside vehicle.
- Drive under control and at appropriate speeds for the terrain.
- Make sure any cargo is securely tied down.
- Inspect tires for proper inflation and condition.
- Check that controls and cables are operational.
- Check chain slack and lubrication and chain-guard.
Following these tips won’t guarantee a safe ride, but they can certainly increase your chances for safe operation. ATVs can be a very useful tool around any farm, but be sure to practice safe riding practices when using an ATV.
1 U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, http://onsafety.cspc.gov/blog/2014/05/22cpsc-infographic-big-real-rough-tough-deadly-atv-statistics…
The Ohio State Extension; Safe Operation of Utility Type Vehicles
Penn State Extension; Safe use of ATVs in Agriculture
Oregon State University – Integrated Plant Protection Center, Farm Safety – ATV
ATV Safety Institute
Flesch-Kincaid – 9.2
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