All-terrain vehicles are a fun way to travel — whether you're dodging boulders and downed trees to get to a favorite hunting spot or hitting the trails for a weekend of family togetherness.
As more people discover the practical uses, as well as the fun, of ATV ownership, they need to keep in mind the special skills and safety precautions required to operate these powerful motorized vehicles, says Mike Mount, spokesman for the ATV Safety Institute.
"The most important thing to do is to sign up for the hands-on RiderCourse that teaches you how to operate the ATV," Mount says.
The course, developed by the ATV Safety Institute, is offered free with most new ATV purchases or you can learn about it online by visiting atvsafety.org.
Lessons range from rules of operation to driving skills that can help riders escape hazardous situations.
"It's a rider-active vehicle, one that requires you to shift your body weight and move a lot on the large seat," Mount says. "Learning how to do this correctly is key for safe operation."
Use of basic protective gear is another must, Mount says.
"You'll need a helmet that meets Department of Transportation standards, as well as a long-sleeved shirt or jacket, long pants, gloves, and over-the-ankle boots," he adds.
Don't be tempted to shed any of those layers, even as summer temperatures rise. "If you mess up and fall off, you'll want some protection between you and the ground," Mount says.
Another important rule is to stay clear of public roadways, where ATV riders risk being struck by larger vehicles, a leading cause of accidents and fatalities. Stick to private property and designated trails.