GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
As a licensed chief instructor with the All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute for the past 16 years, I have had the opportunity to train new military and civilian instructors, and novice riders from age 6 to 84. It's critical that riders and non-riders alike understand the importance of the safe and responsible use of ATVs. Summer marks a time when children have more free time to enjoy outdoor activities, including riding ATVs. Parental supervision is a key element to a child's safety and children under the age of 16 must be supervised at all times when operating an ATV. Parents literally hold the key to their children's safety. Every ATV has an ignition key, and when a parent or guardian controls the key, they control the ATV's use.
Sometimes, people fail to identify hazardous situations that should be obvious. Swimmers who dive into a shallow pond, the driver who does not slow down in foggy conditions or the bicyclist who rides against traffic are examples. There are some who think accidents only happen to other people. They behave as if they will never experience the pain and inconvenience of an accident. The ATV rider who knows how to manage risk effectively is putting him or herself at an advantage in ATV riding situations.
Safe ATV riding can depend on your ability to recognize hazardous riding conditions. How well you are able to read the terrain and environment will play a large part in how safe your ride will be. The half-day, hands-on ATV RiderCourseSM (ATVRC) offered by the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) allows riders to learn the proper and safe use of all-terrain vehicle and is offered at various sites throughout the country. The ATVRC is conducted by certified Instructors from the nationally recognized ATV Safety Institute, which has been conducting these courses for more than 20 years. The ATVRC offers training for the very young, (ages 6-11), where a parent or guardian must be present, to the young at heart (84 years old from my experience).
The course is conducted completely outdoors and students practice basic safety techniques with hands-on exercises covering starting and stopping, turning, (both gradual and quick), negotiating hills, emergency stopping and swerving, and riding over obstacles. Particular emphasis is placed on the safety implications relating to each lesson.
The course also covers protective gear, environmental responsibility and state and local laws. The ATV Safety Institute also offers free interactive online courses for youth, teens, and adults on its website in preparation for taking a hands-on ATV RiderCourse or as a refresher after they have taken a course.
Information about class location and availability can be found at www.atvsafety.org (click on "Online Enrollment") or by calling (800) 887-2887. The ASI ATV RiderCourse is free for purchasers of most new ATVs and it is available to others for a reasonable fee.
The ATV Safety Institute's Golden Rules:
1. Always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
2. Never ride on public roads - another vehicle could hit you.
3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.
5. Ride an ATV that's right for your age.
6. Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
8. Take an ATV RiderCourseSM; Call Toll-Free at (800) 887-2887, or go to www.atvsafety.org.
The ASI's primary goal is to promote the safe and responsible use of ATVs, thereby reducing crashes and injuries that may result from improper ATV operation by the rider.
An ATV is not a toy and can be hazardous to operate. It is only as safe as the person riding it.
With proper training and safe operation of ATVs, fun can be had by all with wonderful memories for everyone that can last a lifetime.