ATV Safety: It's your responsibility

Staff Sgt Robert Carpenter (front), 97th Security Forces Squadron, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., and Staff Sgt Kevin Myers (back), 17th Security Forces Squadron, demonstrate safe riding practices by wearing proper safety gear during the ATV Rider Course May 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kamaile Chan)

Staff Sgt Robert Carpenter (front), 97th Security Forces Squadron, Altus Air Force Base, Okla., and Staff Sgt Kevin Myers (back), 17th Security Forces Squadron, demonstrate safe riding practices by wearing proper safety gear during the ATV Rider Course May 16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kamaile Chan)

Airman 1st Class Jeremy Smith, 17th Security Forces Squadron, does a quick safety inspection on his ATV during the ATV Rider Course. Airman Smith was one of seven Airmen to participate in the first ATV Rider Course at Goodfellow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kamaile Chan)

Airman 1st Class Jeremy Smith, 17th Security Forces Squadron, does a quick safety inspection on his ATV during the ATV Rider Course. Airman Smith was one of seven Airmen to participate in the first ATV Rider Course at Goodfellow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kamaile Chan)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- All-Terrain Vehicles are a fast-growing mode of transportation for members of the 17th Security Forces Squadron. The use of ATV's allows patrolmen to get to places they otherwise couldn't get to with a patrol car. It is more efficient, and with rising gas prices it saves money.

However, the use of ATV's has proved to be very dangerous, especially when riders are uneducated on the correct way to operate and ride the vehicle. So how do we ensure SFS members are educated about safety and the dangers of riding an ATV?

That's where the ATV Rider Course comes into action. The course introduces safety awareness to riders, and ensures the rider is aware of the risks and hazards of ATV operation. Knowing how to recognize those risks and hazards can mean the difference between life, death or serious injuries. It is required that anyone operating an ATV must go through this course.

You can rest assure that the 17 SFS patrolmen are put through a lengthy and very detailed process to get certified to operate the equipment. Tech. Sgt Christopher Wright and Staff Sgt. Kevin Myers are the newest ATV Instructors at Goodfellow. Both individuals, along with five other Airmen from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Altus and Vance Air Force Bases, Okla., went through a four day ATV Instructor Preparation course.

Adam Jara, Chief Instructor, and 1 of only 11 chief instructors in the Department of Defense, expertly led these individuals through more than 60 hours of intense training. Mr. Jara has been training ATV riders for the past 14 years and his safety record is at zero, "If you teach them right, no one is going to get hurt," Mr. Jara said.

The new instructor candidates, on their last day of training, had to teach an actual class of novice students, mostly security forces Airmen, under the supervision of Mr. Jara.

"The course was outstanding," said Tech. Sgt Wright, "I've been riding since I was about four years old, and as an instructor you can't teach shortcuts. You have to do it the right way, so it forces you to recognize those bad habits when you're instructing, it's just a different perspective. Safety is first."

I actually took part in the ATV Rider Course, as well. A little over five hours of training, and It was well worth it. I had no previous experience prior to attending the course and the instructors made sure nothing was left out.

"I didn't receive proper instruction in the past, and I ended up falling off," said Airman 1st Class Warren Moultrie, a member of the 17 SFS. "This course went through everything in detail, which was great."

Everything from what type of safety equipment should be worn, how it should be worn, how to get familiar with your ATV and the importance of knowing your ATV, posture when riding, how to turn, how to stop quickly, how to make an emergency swerve, riding up hills, riding on different terrain, and the importance of being in good physical and mental condition in order to ride safely were covered over the five-hour period.

Riding ATVs can be dangerous, but as long as you ride within your personal limits, and do not go beyond what you know you can do, safety comes easily. You should look at riding as an activity requiring the interaction of three things: personal ability, ATV capabilities and environmental or terrain conditions. Riding an ATV is just like any other sport, it requires the same kind of precautions. Be aware of your surroundings, and don't try to go beyond your abilities or the abilities of your ATV.

Senior Airman John Gaunt of the 97th Security Forces Squadron at Altus Air Force Base, Okla., put it best when he said, "you never know what's going to happen, which is why it's good to be safe."