• Steven E. Overmyer

ATV & UTV Safety Tips for a Kid-Friendly Ride

One of the best parts about being a parent is sharing your hobbies and passions with your kids. There’s nothing quite like starting up the four-wheeler or side-by-side and seeing your child come running out at the sound of the engine, giddy at the chance to ride along with you. With the increasing popularity of ATV and UTV use in children, however, the accidents and fatalities are becoming more and more frequent. They’re not inevitable, though - knowing the dos and don’ts of a safe ride can make all the difference.

Pay attention to manufacturer guidelines.

It’s important to abide by the age recommendation suggested by each offroad vehicle manufacturer. Polaris, for instance, has a sticker stating that passengers should be at least 12 years old to ride. If you’re still unsure, however, the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) recommends that children should be able to reach the grab bars and plant their feet flat on the floor. The ROHVA actually sets the standard for state laws and manufacturer guidelines, making this a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.

Know your state’s laws

Regardless of the manufacturer’s specifications, every state has its own rules when it comes to the minimum age that a child must be in order to operate or ride in an ATV or UTV. Fortunately for those trailblazing children of yours, the law in Texas is a little more lenient than that of other states; it simply states that you must be 14 or older to operate any ATV or UTV unless you’re accompanied by a parent, guardian, or authorized adult.

Wear the proper gear

Just like their parents, kids must wear the appropriate clothing and gear when riding the trails. This should include a helmet, gloves, protective eyewear, over-the-ankle boots, a long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. You can also purchase a neck collar to help stabilize your child’s head, neck, and spine. As with all aspects of life, you can’t be too careful with your children - if you feel like you’re being silly by overdoing the protective garb, you’re absolutely not.

Lead by example

One of a parent’s favorite phrases is “do as I say, not as I do;” but in offroading, it just doesn’t apply. Our kids are always watching and learning from us, so it’s important that we set the standard regarding what is and isn’t safe. If you want your child to wear a helmet and drive at safe speeds, you have to do the same.

Teach them safety basics

As a parent, it often feels like there’s not enough that we can do to keep our children safe; however, we can start by teaching them the basics. Be sure to remind them of these safety tips every time they go out for a ride:

• Keep your hands and feet inside of the moving vehicle

• Always wear your seatbelt or harness in accordance with the user’s manual

• Stay off of paved roads

• Have an emergency plan - stay in areas of cell service and keep a first-aid kit with you

Be honest about the dangers

Sometimes, the best way to keep our children safe is to simply instill a little fear in them. While it’s important to teach our kids to be safe on UTVs and ATVs, it’s just as important to let them know what can happen if they aren’t. Open up a dialogue with your child about the dangers of unsafe riding, and teach them that accidents or fatalities can happen to anyone, especially to those who aren’t driving safely.

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