American Farm Bureau is celebrating Agricultural Safety Awareness Program Week March 6-12, foucsing on one area of farm safety every day. Today’s safety information covers ATV safety, with a focus on steps parents can take for safe ATV use.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are extremely useful on the farm. They can also be dangerous if not operated properly.
ATVs provide transportation on the farm and are used for many other jobs as well. More and more children are using ATVs, not only for working on the farm but for recreation as well.
If a child is going to operate an ATV, it should be size appropriate. Youth cannot handle a machine designed for adults. Every ATV is labeled with the suggested minimum age of the operator. Keep in mind, that while a youth may be the recommended age, not all of them have the strength, skill, or judgment necessary to operate an ATV.
If young people are using ATVs, they must have proper training and protective equipment. They should be able to fully comprehend the machine they are operating, because an ATV is only as capable as the operator.
- Encourage your kids to avoid these risky behaviors on ATVs:
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Not wearing protective gear, like a helmet
- Taking unnecessary risks
- Allowing passengers
Train and supervise new drivers and reinforce the basics of driving an ATV. After all, it’s much diff erent than driving anything else.
- Don’t drive on paved roads
- Watch your speed
- Stunts and other unnecessary behaviors are not allowed
- Avoid poor weather, low light, dangerous terrain, or if the ATV needs repair
- Don’t drive under the infl uence of drugs or alcohol
Whether used for work or recreational purposes, it is your responsibility as a parent to protect your children and youth when operating these vehicles. ATVs are not toys, even the small ones.
A few things to consider before your child uses an ATV for work or play:
One of the most hazardous practices while operating an ATV is allowing riders with the driver. The extra person’s weight alters the ATV’s center of gravity and can cause the ATV to tip more easily. Discourage riders when operating an ATV to protect your child.
Make sure your child has an attitude of safety. Attitude and behavior go hand-in-hand. Exercise your parental rights by insisting on a safe attitude before allowing the use of a potentially hazardous machine.
Coordination and judgment are crucial to operating an ATV safely. Good hand-eye coordination, agility, and sense of balance will help protect your child.
Does your child have the ability to analyze and solve problems? Incidents on ATVs happen fast and it’s important that children and youth react quickly and appropriately when a dangerous situation arises.
Consider your child’s age when picking an ATV, but realize riding an ATV safely requires physical size and strength to maneuver properly. Age does not guarantee a perfect fit since everyone grows at a different rate. A 14-year-old boy may be as large as an adult, while his 16-year-old sister may be very small in stature.
Your child must be big enough to safely operate an ATV.
- Is there 3 inches between the ATV seat and his/her inseam when they stand?
- Are his/her arms long enough to turn the handlebars all the way to the right and to the left?
- Are his/her hands big enough to work the brake lever, the throttle, and other hand controls?
- Can his/her feet comfortably reach and operate the brake and other controls?
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must when operating an ATV. As the most important PPE, make sure his/her ATV helmet fits well. It should fit snuggly and not become loose when your youth moves his/her head from side to side. It should be Department of Transportation or Snell approved. Additional protective clothing include: goggles, sturdy boots, gloves, long pants, and a long sleeved shirt.
Provide training for novice ATV operators through an ATV dealer or ATV Safety Institute. Consider participating in the training yourself.
ATVs are intended to be used as off-road vehicles. Some state laws allow ATVs to use the public road system with restrictions. Check with your individual state to see what the specific laws are in your state.
Protect your children by understanding your child and the risks they take when operating an ATV. You play a vital role in preventing injuries to someone you love.