ATV Safety Tips
All-terrain vehicles, with their thick, wide, low-pressure tires and advanced suspension system, certainly live up to their name: they handle dirt, mud, sleet and snow with ease. Used for both industry and recreation, and known colloquially as “ATVs,” the versatility and power of these vehicles have made them immensely popular among American farmers, woodsmen and speed enthusiasts alike. For those who live near backwoods, or own acres of open space, ATVs can make for an exciting mode of transportation. Alternatively, they can be utilized purely for sport—a way to romp through muddy trails or maraud over shallow streambeds.
Not surprisingly, the growing popularity of these vehicles across America has been accompanied by a rise in ATV-related accidents. In fact, ATV accidents rose by approximately 150% over the course of the last decade.
Accidents happen. That’s just a reality of vehicular transport. However, like all accidents, there are ways in which you can minimize their likelihood. You may not be able to eliminate accidents entirely, but by adhering to the following tips, you can help reduce your chances of being involved in an ATV crash.
- Obey all posted speed limits. Some backwoods, grasslands and forested areas may not have abundant signage. In absence of these written advisories, it’s up to you to exhibit prudence. Never speed recklessly.
- Wear all available safety equipment. What may seem cumbersome when you’re cruising around will be graciously welcomed in the event of a crash. Helmets, gloves, goggles, knee pads, and shoulder pads were all designed to keep you safe, and should be used accordingly.
- Don’t ride your ATV in poor weather. Rain and snow can make an ATV’s responsiveness highly unpredictable. Heavy rain and snow can also decrease your visibility, which can make you prone to accidents.
- Most ATVs come with recommended weight and passenger number limits. The more riders on an ATV, the more difficult it is for the pilot to maintain equilibrium. Any equipment being carried should be equally distributed on either side of the ATV so as to maintain balance. Do not overlade an ATV with additional riders or excess equipment.
- An ATV that has fallen into disrepair is more likely to experience an accident, so keep your ATV fine-tuned and well-maintained.
- Stick to authorized and kept trails. Venturing off course can increase the chances that you’ll go careening off into danger or impact your vehicle on unforeseen objects.
- Unless you’re a professional, it’s probably best to not engage in unsanctioned races. ATVs are bound to attract those with needs for speed and, accordingly, will appeal to riders with competitive spirits. But racing may engender over-dangerous situations and might goad riders into employing more reckless driving styles than they’d be willing to try out solo. Whenever there’s competition involved, there is always the possibility that the ante will be raised to dangerous levels, which could lead to an accident. So we implore our readers not to race without professional supervision.
- On a related note: Although the popularity of extreme ATV riding has recently blossomed exponentially, and is a more common sight on television than it has been in years past, this is another activity best left to trained professionals. Launching an ATV from dirt ramps may be the ultimate off-road rush, but the self-endangerment level inherent to this feat is, perhaps appropriately, also sky-high. Unless you’re a trained professional, try and stay earthbound when riding your ATV.
- Even if you’re not contemplating X-game style aerial maneuvers, you should still attend safety courses that teach how to properly ride an ATV. One of the biggest dangers of the ATV is that no official license is required to operate one. Inexperienced and untrained riders are far more likely to cause a crash.
The good news is that ATV accidents claim fewer lives per year than most other types of vehicular accidents. The annual death toll is a fraction of that of automobile accidents. However, New York is among the most dangerous states for ATV riders. Between 1982 and 2007, 338 people died while using ATVs, and 64 of these riders were under the age of 16. Compared to the state of California, where 508 ATV-related deaths were reported across this interval, New York seems relatively safe. But the state that registers the fewest ATV-induced deaths is Delaware, which saw only 7 deaths over this span, and seems much safer indeed, comparatively.
New Jersey, which actually ranks fairly low on the per annum ATV death rate, with 67 fatalities over the previously discussed 25 year span, had a close call in the summer of 2015 when a 45-year-old farm-owner crashed his ATV. He was riding across his estate with his three young sons onboard. (This was very likely an overloading of the craft—consult the safety tips above! There are very few ATVs designed to hold 4 occupants, even if some of the riders are small.) At some point, the man lost control of the ATV and the vehicle tipped, ejecting all four riders. Fortunately, the three young boys escaped without serious harm. They were rushed to a nearby hospital but summarily dismissed, with only minor injuries. The man himself, however, didn’t fare so well. He sustained more grievous damage and was listed as in critical condition.
This story should serve as a warning. The man involved in this unfortunate (but mercifully non-fatal) incident was an experienced ATV rider accustomed to using his vehicle for transportation and recreation. But when it comes to off-roading, it is hard for even well-seasoned pros to anticipate and then adeptly out-maneuver all of the geographical curveballs nature has to offer. An errant tree branch, an oversize rock submerged in leaves, a rain-induced deviation in mud and dirt-formed curves and slopes—all of these hazards occur chaotically, without pattern and without warning. The best way to combat chaos is to be prepared and to stay alert. With that in mind, here is some more safety advice, courtesy of Kaplan Lawyers PC.
Some More Tips!
- It is dangerous to ride ATVs on paved surfaces. An ATV is best suited for natural terrain, and may not handle as expertly on the comparatively flatter and smoother asphalt. That’s to say nothing of how much less forgiving pavement and concrete surfaces can be on the body if an accident does occur, and a rider is pitched from the vehicle.
- A corollary to the rule of never driving ATVs on paved surfaces is that you should especially never take an ATV onto the highway. If a highway must be crossed on an ATV, the pilot should seek a designated crossover, which runs perpendicular to the highway itself. Only after carefully surveying the scene for oncoming traffic should an ATV user attempt crossing a highway or similarly busy road.
- At night, or during the evening as the sky darkens, it’s important to utilize an ATVs headlights for visibility purposes.
- It’s up to you to stay vigilant! If you are used to driving more traditional vehicles, you’ll likely be more accustomed to proper roads, which are lined, cleanly demarcated, and governed by a system of signs and lights that inform all motorists as to the pertinent rules and regulations. Murky forests, snow-laden mountainous regions, and shallow riverbeds don’t usually offer such comprehensive guidance. Keep your eyes open at all times! You should be on the constant lookout for obstructions and obstacles that could be lurking under-wheel, looking to unseat you from your new ride.
- Always lean into the turn you’re making, and attempt to make the turn as wide as you possibly can. When approaching steep grades, it’s important to try and predetermine any changes in equilibrium, and shift your body weight accordingly. You should also be sure to not come to abrupt stops.
- Last but certainly not least: Never, ever operate an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Registering an ATV
An important part of ATV ownership is keeping up with your vehicle registration. If you use your ATV in an industrial manner (e.g., plowing snow / fields, hauling agricultural equipment), then you are not required to register it with the DMV. However, all ATVs used for recreational or transportation purposes must be declared and authorized by this government agency. To complete the registration process for an ATV you must:
- Complete the MV-82 Form. This form is also known as the Vehicle Registration / Title Application form and is a required form for most vehicles.
- Provide valid, up-to-date photographic identification.
- Provide proof of ownership, which is a comprehensive process that includes the following sub-steps:
- For New ATVs: Bring in the MCO (Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin) plus the registration certificate. If the ATV was purchased out-of-state, an out-of-state title may be provided instead.
- For Used ATVs: Bring in the MCO and the MV-51 form, which is a form designed specifically for used vehicles. If you lack these documents and titles, there are forms you can fill out for used ATVs that can be filed in lieu of the traditional documentation.
- For tax purposes, a bill of sale or tax receipt must be presented.
- Pay the necessary dual fees:
- License Plate Fee: $12.50
- Registration Fee: $12.50
- Total: $25.00
- Once these steps are complete, be sure to affix both the physical license plate and the registration decal to the rear of your ATV. Keep both in open, plain sight and regularly remove mud or other encrustations should they form atop either placard, hindering visibility. This way, both can be read easily by all pertinent parties.
ATVs operated outside of your own private property must have liability insurance. Per the DMV, minimum required coverage breaks down as follows:
- Death: $50,000 / $100,000
- Injury: $25,000 / $50,000
- Property Damage (One Accident): $10,000
You are required to show proof of insurance if requested by a judge or a police officer, or if a person is claiming to have suffered property damage or injury directly owing to the operation of your ATV.
The rules stated above apply to all ATV riders, though riders under 16 years of age generally face additional restrictions. It should also be noted that, for most regions, it holds true that riders under the age of 10 are not permitted to pilot an ATV alone. For more information regarding underage riders, or for more questions in general, ATV users should contact their nearest DMV. For the safety of all, these restrictions should be heeded. And for general liability reasons, all of the protocol listed above should be adhered to diligently.
Contact Our New York ATV Accident Attorneys
The wild and fast-paced nature of ATV riding is part of the appeal. Thrill-seekers fall in love with precisely what most driving instructors would preach against. The accelerated nature of the ride, the swerving, the purposeful interaction with rough terrain— it’s all part of the fun. Most ATV riders consider harsh terrain not an impediment but the ideal topography for an exciting ride. But there is a balance to be struck, between thrills and the preservation of safety.
Obviously, no one has fun when someone gets injured. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we are advocates of safety above else. We know that by staying informed of the most current rules, and by exhibiting care and alertness in all scenarios, you can reduce the likelihood of an accident, even when it comes to potentially hazardous activities, like ATV riding. If you do your part, there’s a great chance that a day of ATV riding will result in nothing but a fun time. However, accidents do happen. ATVs sometimes malfunction, and unseen hazardous objects can, at times, ruin an otherwise enjoyable event.
If you believe that some technical defect, overlooked by an ATV manufacturer, has directly precipitated an accident in which you or a loved one has been injured, then it may be within your rights to sue.
Additionally, if you’ve been hurt because you’ve been introduced into a dangerous environment, where a property owner or ATV dealer has deliberately or negligently failed to properly maintain trails or clear out hazardous obstacles, it may be the case that the proprietor is liable for damages. In either case, you’ll want a law firm experienced in dealing with cases of this nature. At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we have a long and storied track record of winning compensation for clients who have been injured in vehicular accidents. As you recuperate from injuries, it is important that you focus on your health and not the expensive medical bills you’ve incurred. If you’ve suffered physical pain and emotional anguish, you may be entitled to restitution. If you have any more questions or concerns, contact Kaplan Lawyers PC. Our consultations are a free and easy way to get started. And we do not charge a fee unless we win money for you. So contact us today.
Attorney Jared S. Kaplan
Attorney Jared S. Kaplan has focused his career on advancing his legal knowledge though the day to day practice of law. Jared is a partner in the law firm of Kaplan Lawyers PC in Syosset, New York and has been a practicing attorney for nearly 20 years. His career started in litigation, so Jared is aware of the pitfalls in litigation and uses that knowledge in the representation of his clients in complex matters. [ Attorney Bio ]