Don’t go around the law
Although the policies regulating ATV riding may vary depending on the state where you live, one condition is non-negotiable: you need to be at least 16 to legally drive one without adult supervision. Children under this age should never be allowed to operate the vehicle alone.
As their name suggests, four-wheelers are destined to be operated off the public roads and their use should be restricted to designated trails. The only exception applies in the case of ATVs fulfilling industrial and agricultural purposes. However, should you ever find yourself driving on a public street, you are required to own a valid driving license.
In order to make sure that you abide by the law and ride only on approved trails, you should do some research to find out where to locate the government-approved roads. This way, you can enjoy a fun and safe ride, without running the risk of getting injured or receiving a fine.
Also, don’t fall into the trap of taking along a buddy just for the fun of it. ATVs which are designed for one single person should never be loaded beyond their capacity. Not only is it a contravention, but you stand a good chance of losing control of the vehicle and injuring yourself and your passenger.
Don’t skip the helmet
When it comes to ATV helmets, wearing one can undoubtedly be a life-saver. Injuries to the head are among the most dangerous outcomes of off-road accidents and can lead to permanent damage, so you wouldn’t want to be involved in one without proper protection.
We advise you to find a model which is approved by the US Department of Transportation, in a size which fits you well and doesn’t move out of place when you shake your head from side to side. Make sure you fasten the under-chin harness well so that the helmet doesn’t slip out in case of a collision.
In addition to potentially saving your life one day, helmets also provide the benefit of considerably reducing the wind noise while riding. Also, they offer additional protection against objects such as rocks or branches which might hit you in the face.
There are basically two options for the average ATV driver. If you go for a full-face helmet, your entire face will be protected by a shield, providing you with excellent protection. Alternatively, you can use an open-face helmet, in which case your mouth and chin will be exposed and, therefore, more vulnerable. This brings us to the next safety tip.
Purchase protective gear
If you don’t like the constriction of a full-face helmet, you can – and should – couple an open-face one with protective eyewear. Always keep in mind that ATV designated trails are not very well-kept, which means there will be plenty of dust and debris flying toward you. A pair of goggles will keep your eyes safe during the ride.
Next, put on a long-sleeved top as well as long pants, for which your arms and legs will be extremely grateful. As you’ll be driving on off-road trails, you will need protection against the rocks which can easily be projected onto your skin, as well as grasping branches if you are riding through a forest.
Choose a pair of gloves that protect your hands and, at the same time, allow you enough flexibility to properly maneuver the vehicle. Also, put on a pair of over-the-ankle boots and you’re good to go.
Stay mindful of your surroundings
Make no mistake, it may sound like fun to ride a four-wheeler through the woods with no regard for safety rules whatsoever, but ATVs are actually more dangerous vehicles than you might think. To retain your vigilance at all times, it is vital that you never ride your ATV under the influence of substances like alcohol or drugs, as it can easily lead to fatalities.
Avoid thinking that slowing down at times is a waste of time. Quite the contrary, it is important that you take the time to assess the quality of the trail ahead so that you can adjust your speed and driving behavior.
It is not rare for ATV riders to encounter animals on country roads, which is one of the many reasons why driving at night is strongly discouraged. By paying close attention to the road, as well as to the obstacles which may come ahead, you can anticipate danger and successfully avoid accidents.
There are situations that can occur on the way which not even the most experienced ATV riders can predict or completely avoid. However, by being aware of your surroundings and the road conditions you can prevent a lot of unpleasant incidents.
Perform regular inspections
It may be easy to forget this in the heat of the moment, but performing a technical check-up every time you set out on a ride should be on your list of priorities. Even if you are equipped with the best protective gear, a technical failure can pose a huge threat to your physical integrity and even life.
Make a habit out of briefly inspecting the brakes and the brake lights, the headlights, and the throttle. Always make sure that you have enough gas in your tank, as well as cooling and brake liquids at the onset of the journey.
Considering the nature of the trails you will be riding on, it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than be caught off-guard. A technical maintenance routine may not eliminate all the risks you can encounter while riding a four-wheeler, but it will certainly protect you against many of them.