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Keep Your ATV Outings Safe This Summer

If you own an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), chances are you're well into one of your most active times of the year.

As fun as it is, your favorite outdoor activity can be risky. Any time you mix high speeds and heavy machinery, the risk of an accident is greatly increased. Take a time out and review some common-sense safety advice from the ATV Safety Institute and Consumer Product Safety Commission.

According to the Commission, 92% of ATV-related fatalities are due to warned-against behaviors. Here are six ways to dramatically help reduce risk for you, your family and your friends.
  1. Take a hands-on safety training course. Formal training teaches drivers how to control ATVs in typical situations. Drivers with formal, hands-on training have a lower injury risk than untrained drivers. Call 1-800-887-2887 or visit for details.
  2. Always wear protective gear, especially a helmet. Select a motorcycle or other motorized sports helmet and make sure the helmet is certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation and/or the Snell Memorial Foundation. In addition, wear over-the-ankle boots, goggles, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  3. Don't drive with a passenger or ride as a passenger. ATV drivers must be able to shift their weight freely in all directions, depending on the situation and terrain. Passengers can make it difficult for drivers to maintain safe control.
  4. Don't drive on paved roads. ATVs aren't street-legal in most states, and there's a good reason: Most of them have a solid rear axle with no differential, which can make them difficult to control on paved roads.
  5. Don't let children drive or ride on adult ATVs. About one-third of ATV-related deaths and emergency room injuries involve children, most of whom were driving or riding on an adult ATV, according to the commission. For children under 16, operating or riding on adult ATVs makes them twice as likely to be injured as riding youth ATVs.
  6. Don't drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This one should go without saying. Good reaction time and judgment are just as essential to safe ATV use as they are to everyday driving.
In addition to safety off the road, it's worth thinking about safety as you're getting your machine to your ride area. The two keys to safe ATV towing are keeping it tied down and keeping it level. You'll want multiple crisscrossed straps to keep your ATV in place, and you should check it periodically while you're traveling to make sure vibration hasn't loosened them. As for leveling, balance is critical. You'll want a slight bit of the load on the tow vehicle tongue to prevent swaying. On most trailers, the balance point is near the axle.

Finally, be sure you have the insurance coverage you need for your ATV. Many states require ATV insurance for vehicles operated on state-owned land.
ATV insurance options are similar to those available for motorcycle users, so think about such coverages as liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist, as well as comprehensive, collision and medical payments. And, look for ways to customize your insurance coverage with options such as safety apparel replacement and roadside assistance.