All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are a popular recreational activity and they can be a useful tool for those who own large areas of land or farms, however the UVM Medical Center reports a threefold increase in ATV-related injuries in the Emergency Department this season. Despite there being a plethora of safety information on how to properly use ATV’s, every year we see patients brought into our trauma centers for ATV-related injuries. While 1 in 4 injuries has been a child or teen, most of the injuries are adults who have been riding for years.
Even if you and your family have ATVs and have never been hurt, take the time to regularly review safety information, because it only takes one incident to change or end a life. As always, when adults are following best safety practices, youth are more likely to follow their example.
Always Wear a Helmet
Even if you are only moving the ATV in your garage or using it on your property, you should wear a DOT-compliant helmet that is properly fitted. We recommend putting the helmet on before getting onto the ATV and removing the helmet once you are fully off the vehicle. If you are in a crash of any sort, replace the helmet!
Shockingly, about 75 percent of ATV-related injuries we saw at UVM Medical Center in the last two years were individuals who were not wearing helmets.
Fit the ATV to the Rider
Most ATVs are designed for a single rider, though some are designed to carry a passenger. If riding a two-person ATV, ensure that both individuals are old enough to safely ride and are wearing the proper safety equipment. ATVs come in different sizes so they can be safely ridden and controlled by their user. Children should never drive a full-size ATV.
Know Where You are Riding
There are public ATV trails in our region, such as VASA trails in Vermont. Please note, helmets are required on all VASA trails. If you are riding on private trails or on private property, check for hazards and risks such as laundry lines, cables blocking off trails, or ditches. Doing a safety check every spring after the snow melts and periodically throughout the summer can keep all riders safer.
The only time an ATV should be on a road is to cross it. Cross the road in locations where it is safe to do so and you have good visibility of oncoming traffic from both directions.
Supervise Young Riders
ATVs may be fun to ride, but they are not toys. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who are too young to have a driver’s license not be allowed to operate or ride off-road vehicles.If you do choose to allow a child under the age of 16 to drive or ride, they should always be supervised by an adult and should only use an ATV that is properly sized for them. The supervising adult can ensure that helmets are worn at all times and that safe driving behaviors are practiced.
Dress for the Ride
Besides a properly fitted helmet, riders should wear long pants, over-the-ankle boots, long sleeves, gloves, and goggles. Clothing should be well-fitted to limit the risk of it catching on surfaces or objects.
Take a Safety Class
Whether you are new to ATVs or have been riding them for decades, it is always a good idea to take a safety course. You may learn new and important safety information. There are ATV safety courses available online or in-person for all ages.
Stay Alert, Stay Connected
Whenever you use an ATV, take a fully charged cell phone with you and ensure that all riders are clear headed so that you can respond quickly if an emergency occurs. If an individual is injured while using an ATV, seek professional medical guidance or call 9-1-1 if it is an emergency.
Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and UVM Children’s Hospital.