6 Safety Tips to Keep 4-Wheeling Fun
All-terrain vehicles, sometimes called 4-wheelers, are off-road vehicles that can be used for both fun and work. ATVs are popular with New Mexico farmers who use them for checking on livestock in the fields, to inspecting their crops, or even add fertilizer or chemical protectants to their fields. When used for recreational purposes, 4-wheelers can explore rugged trails and make the perfect off-road vehicle for hunters.
No matter how you choose to use your ATV, following these six safety guidelines can help prevent the kinds of accidents and injuries that can cause serious injury or even death.
Safety tip #1: Get safety certified
ATVs are not toys. While you can have a great deal of fun on them, you also can end up with some debilitating injuries if you do not treat them with the respect they deserve. Learning how to ride your ATV safely in a controlled setting is one of the smartest and most responsible things you can do. You must be able to make quick adjustments – increasing or decreasing speed, shifting your weight to make turns – while riding to ensure your safety and that of any passengers. New Mexico law requires ATV operators to be at least 13 years old and possess a valid motorcycle license or 15 years old with a valid driver’s license.
Safety tip #2: Choose the right size ATV
When it comes to ATVs, one size does not fit all. You must choose one that is sized correctly for your age, weight, and height if you want to ride safely. Full-sized 4-wheelers can weigh more than 600 pounds. They are difficult to maneuver, even when you have one that is an appropriate fit. All manufacturer’s warning labels indicate recommended age groups. You also can ask an ATV sales representative to ensure you pick a 4-wheeler that is best suited to you.
Safety tip #3: Wear a helmet and eye protection
Wearing a helmet and eye protection does not make you a dork. It makes you a responsible ATV rider (or passenger). New Mexico requires all ATV riders under 18 to wear a helmet and approved eye protection. While those over 18 are not mandated to do the same, the New Mexico Game and Fish Commission strongly encourages it. Head and spine trauma are two of the most common injuries from ATV accidents. Wearing a helmet can help protect against traumatic brain injuries that can leave you permanently disabled. Eye protection is as important as a helmet, especially if riding your ATV on a trail or other off-road terrain that has rocks, branches, and other debris that easily can get caught by your wheels and fly up into your face. Your best bet for protecting your noggin and your eyes is a helmet with a full-face shield.
Safety tip #4: Dress for ATV success
Long pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves, and ankle-high boots offer the best protection when riding. While no one intends to fall off their 4-wheeler, it can happen. ATVs have a high center of gravity, no seatbelts, and no roll bars. If they tip, nothing is keeping you on your seat. If you get thrown from your ATV, the right clothing can keep you from getting painful skin abrasions.
Safety tip #5: Ignore the need for speed
ATVs are powerful vehicles. While you might feel wild and free on one, it is important to remember that 4-wheeler tires are not designed for pavement or high speeds. While most can go between 65 and 80 mph (and some even faster than that), if you go too fast on yours, it can become unstable and tip. It also is more difficult to turn an ATV when it is going too fast. Just because you can go fast does not mean you should. Always ride your ATV on approved trails or other riding surfaces and keep it at a controlled speed.
Safety tip #6: Learn basic first aid
No one plans to be in an accident. That does not mean you should not be prepared for one. Learning some basic first aid for treating minor injuries and stabilizing more serious ones (like broken bones) until help arrives is a wise move if you regularly ride an ATV. The Red Cross in Albuquerque offers both CPR and first aid classes.
What kind of injuries can you get on an ATV?
Why do you need to follow these safety tips? It is simple: you can get seriously injured if you refuse. Four common injuries can happen when you have an ATV accident.
- Concussions are a kind of traumatic brain injury that happens when there is an impact on your head. If you fall off your ATV, your head could hit the ground hard, or bang off a rock or other debris. If you are thrown from your ATV, you could end up going head-first into a tree. Concussions can cause serious problems down the road, including headaches and seizures.
- Broken bones are one of the most common injuries from 4-wheelers. Any time you are thrown or fall off your ATV, you risk breaking a bone. Riding at a controlled speed and wearing protective gear can help.
- Spinal cord injuries can lead to permanent paralysis and even death. Getting thrown from your ATV or having it roll onto you are two ways you can suffer a spinal cord injury. Stay at a safe speed to help prevent these kinds of accidents.
- Cuts and bruises are another risk when you ride a heavy metal machine like an ATV. The arms and legs are where most cuts and bruises happen. Wearing protective clothing and staying at a safe speed can help prevent these kinds of injuries.
Who is responsible if you get injured by a 4-wheeler?
That depends. If you are riding carelessly on an ATV and have an accident that leaves you with debilitating injuries, you are the only responsible party. If you are a passenger on a 4-wheeler and someone else’s poor decisions lead to your injury, they can be held liable for their actions. Likewise, if the machine you are driving is defective, or if your helmet or other safety gear is faulty, you may be able to go after the manufacturer. Talking with a personal injury lawyer can help determine if you have a case. Bill Russell is an experienced personal injury lawyer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can schedule a hassle-free consultation with him by calling 505-218-7844 or inquiring online.