8 point plan for ATV safety - Beware of the risks associated with these highly dangerous vehicles
The number of All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) related fatalities and injuries taking place on Irish farms in recent years has increased in tandem with the surge of ATV or "quad bike" ownership in this country. It is now estimated that there are now around 10,000 ATVs in use on Irish farms.
ATVs have inherently unstable design features (a narrow-wheel base, short turning radius, high centre of gravity and low tyre pressure) to maximize manoeuvrability. The injuries from these vehicles can often be fatal, because they can achieve high speeds and when an ATV overturns, there is no roll bar to protect the driver's head or neck (as is the case with a tractor or utility vehicle).
Already this year, there have been two farming related deaths due to ATV accidents in Ireland. Some of the key risk factors for ATV related injuries and death include being male, being of rural residence, driving inexperience and large engine size. How many of those boxes do you or a loved one tick?
There is no doubting that ATVs can be a real aid on the farm, but a vehicle with a roll bar device is safer on every level. It is imperative farmers who decide to purchase an ATV know they are buying a statistically dangerous vehicle.
If you have an ATV on the farm, you are being negligent if you don't at least familiarise yourself with safe driving practices and prevent children (those under 16 years of age) from driving the ATV in any circumstance.
Eight point plan for safer use
Non-fatal accidents are not well reported. The underlying causes are usually one or more of the following:
* lack of structured training and/or experience;
* excessive speed;
* carrying a passenger or an unbalanced load;
* tipping over on a bank, ditch, rut or bump;
* towing excessive loads with un-braked equipment.
Training is a matter of life and death. ATVs should only be ridden by users over the age of 16 who have received appropriate training in their safe use.
Don't give in to pressure from children to operate ATVs - teach them to respect the countless deaths and injuries ATVS have caused on Irish farms.
3. Protective clothing
More than half of all ATV riders have been thrown off at some time. There is no roll bar, so head protection is vital if you are to have any chance. At present, a motorcycle helmet is recommended.
Never carry a passenger on an ATV. The long seat is for operators to shift their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions, not for carrying passengers. You should not carry a passenger in a trailer behind an ATV, as any movement will make the machine unstable.
Off-road riding is hard on an ATV so it is essential to carry out maintenance according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Tyre pressures and brakes should be checked regularly.
6. Safe driving methods
When cornering, weight should be transferred to the inside of the turn. When riding across a slope, keep your weight on the uphill side of the ATV. When going downhill, slide your weight backwards and reduce speed. When going uphill, move your weight forwards to reduce risk of overturning.
7. Route planning
Over rough terrain, get to know your ground and stick to planned routes where possible. Walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions.
Ensure all riders know the manufacturer's recommended towing capacity and drawbar loading limit. Remember that your ability to control the ATV by your body movements will be considerably reduced when carrying a load or towing a trailer.
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