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Safe on all terrains: ATV Riding Tips

Category: Patient Stories
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Person Riding An ATV Through Brush All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-highway vehicles (OHVs) offer a fun outdoor activity for teens and families. But according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), most people don’t understand how the unique design of ATVs poses a safety risk. “Some manufacturers of ATVs have warning labels stating the appropriate age group the vehicle is designed for to ensure safe operation,” says Kathryn Brown, Education Coordinator of the Trauma/Outreach/Injury Prevention program at St. Luke’s. “The four-wheeler needs to fit your body. It shouldn’t be too big or too small. You need to be able to reach the controls and the handlebars.” Earlier this spring, two terrible ATV accidents involving teens prompted questions from students in St. Luke’s Don’t Have A Life Wreck safe driving program, which Kathryn teaches. She says, “To help students visualize and understand the impact of an ATV flipping over and landing on top of a rider, I explain that it’s like having a washing machine land on you. You’re going to end up badly hurt.”

Get Trained and Certified

A study done by the University of Iowa and published in an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that rollovers were the most common cause of injury for children (including teens) driving adult-sized ATVs. A high percentage of those injured wore no helmets or had passengers. Of the twenty children, teens and adults who died due to ATV injuries in Minnesota in 2012, none of them had ATV certification training. “We see so many traumatic injuries,” says Kathryn. “Safe riding will keep you out of the emergency room.”

The Minnesota DNR offers ATV training, starting at age 11. “Training helps with so much,” says Kathryn. “You learn how to squeeze the brake lever so you don’t flip, how to use your weight to maintain balance, how to cross safely from asphalt to a dirt trail.” And for those teens who care about the wilderness, a site called Tread Lightly offers responsible ATV riding tips that allow for fun while minimizing the impact on the environment.

Safety Tips

  • Take a safety course
  • Always wear a helmet
  • Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants to protect your legs from engine burns and non-skid ankle boots to protect your feet
  • Ride a machine that’s the right fit for you
  • One person at a time; no passengers
  • Never ride on the road
  • Tell someone where you are going
  • Go with a buddy in case there’s an accident or a breakdown
  • Have a cell phone or some form of communication with you
  • Respect private property
  • Follow safety rules
  • Never use drugs or alcohol
  • Don’t wear headphones or ear buds while riding