Do your part to make sure harvest season isn't accident season for ATVs. While they can be valuable farmhands and fun for both younger family members and adults, they can also be dangerous. Bill Field, Purdue farm safety specialist, finds far too many articles in a year's time about serious accidents, or even fatalities, that involve ATVs in rural areas.
Here are some safety tips. While they're based on a brochure prepared by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, they fit just as well in Indiana as they do in Iowa. AN accident is an accident, and an injury is an injury, whether it happens here or there.
One. Know your ATV- It's a machine, not a toy. Make sure anyone who will be operating it realizes that, even if they will only be on it for a short time.
Two. Know what your machine can and can't do- For example, know how quick it can stop. Be aware of the distance needed to stop if you see a hazard quicker than you expected. Factor in what surface you're on- such as a gravel road, and how that might affect stopping time.
Three. Carry fuses and basic toolkit- You ought to know how to get your machine running at least so you can get it out of harm's way or back to the barn or house in case it begins to sputter or not run properly.
Four. Be weather savvy- If it starts raining or if you go out intentionally in the rain, be aware of how that may affect performance, such as on turns.
Five. Never ride alone- It's a basic.
Six. Never ride double- Unless the machine is designed to carry two people, don't ride double. That's not what never riding alone means. It means having someone else ride on a separate vehicle. This rule applies more to situations where you may be exploring, rather than doing farm chores.
Seven. Always wear safety gear. That means a helmet/goggles, but it also means more than that. In case of an accident, other parts of your body may be exposed. You need over-the-ankle boots, long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and gloves.
Eight. Don't buckle to peer pressure- The younger crowd can sometimes be caught up in dares or other not-so-safe activities. Be sure you don't try doing something that your machine or skill level won't allow you to do safely.