How ATV Safety Works

Safely Operating an ATV

When used responsibly, all-terrain vehicles provide an excellent means of exploring the great outdoors.
When used responsibly, all-terrain vehicles provide an excellent means of exploring the great outdoors.
Nick Koudis/Photodisc/Getty Images

ATV owners use their vehicles for varying tasks, from deer hunting and landscaping to simply enjoying the great outdoors. We plowed through some troubling statistics and rather grisly examples on the previous page, but the good news is that, with a little common sense, ATVs can carry you wherever you need to go without unreasonable risk of injury.

The first thing to keep in mind is that ATVs frequently weigh in the neighborhood of 700 pounds (318 kilograms) and can reach maximum speeds of more than 60 miles per hour (97 kilometers per hour). In addition to providing enough momentum to break the human body against any number of natural and man-made obstacles, that kind of weight makes a roll or a flip a potentially bone-breaking affair. In other words, never treat an ATV like a toy.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends the following guidelines for ATV safety:

  • Don't allow children to drive or ride adult ATVs: It's worth stressing again that ATVs are not toys. As such, appropriately aged children should only be permitted to use youth ATVs, and larger models should remain the exclusive domain of adults.
  • Don't drive ATVs on paved roads: Most ATVs are designed with unpaved roads and rough terrains in mind. Just as you might have trouble driving your Toyota Corolla on the beach, ATVS can prove difficult to control on paved roads. Factor in potential collisions with automobiles and you have a recipe for disaster.
  • No passengers: Sure, it might look fun to double up on a rocky ride through the woods, but the majority of ATVs are designed with only one user in mind. Most important, proper control of an ATV involves interactive riding. This means that drivers need to be able to shift their weight in any direction to help maintain control of the vehicle.
  • Don't drive under the influence: It should go without saying, but operating an ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a horrible idea. If you do find yourself hammered, stoned, wasted or bombed and absolutely require a little four-wheeler action, then please consider any of the numerous quad-racing video games on the market as a safe alternative.

The two additional recommendations provided by the CPSC revolve around proper safety gear and the use of a hands-on safety training course. We'll explore both of these on the following pages.