Some people think that climbing on an ATV and going for a ride is just as simple as taking your regular car for a ride around the neighborhood. After all, both vehicles have four wheels, right? Wrong. Remember when you first learned to drive, and how difficult it was to learn to shift, steer, turn, and so on? It's the same way with an ATV. It takes practice to get good at it, and being over-confident without the skills to back it up, can be downright dangerous.

It's true that some people choose quads over dirt bikes because there's less chance of losing your balance and going down. They are also easier to learn. A four-wheeler is also typically more manageable for young riders. If you're looking for a fun family activity, ATVs are a good option, but use caution, and follow these important safety tips.

Avoid a Rollover

Most ATV accidents and injuries are a result of a rollover. Unfortunately it's fairly easy to roll an ATV over, but it's also pretty easy to prevent it from happening. The most common way of causing a rollover and ending up being pinned underneath it is by “looping out.” It's caused by over-throttling the gas and not having the experience to handle it. Generally the front of the ATV spikes up in a little wheelie and throws you off, just like a bucking bronco at the rodeo. Also, just sliding around on a quick turn or hill climbs can cause a rollover. The key is to slow down and stay in control at all times.

atv mudding

Image via Flickr by sfkjr

Use Nerf Bars

A nerf bar is kind of like a giant foot peg. It's not made of Nerf, like the soft cushy toys we toss in the backyard. Really, you shouldn't even bother with traditional foot pegs because your feet will constantly slip off in the turns. Also, sometimes with a false sense of security a rider will let their feet drag on the ground. That is a recipe for disaster because you could end up getting your foot caught in the back tire, which usually causes serious injury. Nerf bars enable a rider to stabilize their feet and therefore more easily control the ATV.

Wear Protective Gear

Always, always, wear protective gear when riding a four-wheeler. We shouldn't have to remind you that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries. In addition to always wearing a helmet, you should also wear goggles to protect your eyes from flying mud, dirt, and insects. Good riding gloves will help protect your hands and assist with managing the throttle. Protective boots are always a good idea, as are long pants and long sleeves. Wearing protective gear minimizes the chances of injury if you fall off or roll over.

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ATVs are a lot of fun and a common recreational activity, especially for families. They are also used for more practical applications like getting around on the farm. Sometimes people view an ATV as a “toy,” but the fact is, if ridden irresponsibly, they can be quite dangerous and even cause death. So always use caution and ride within your ability.

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