With the all-terrain vehicle riding season in Minnesota in full swing – and the number of registered all-terrain vehicles continuing to rise – DNR conservation officers and safety officials remind people to be aware of the regulations and safety training opportunities before they head for the trails or allow youngsters to ride.
While youth riders are required to complete ATV safety courses (those between the ages of 12 and 15 must take an online course and a hands-on riding performance class, while those 16 and older born after July 1, 1987 must complete an online course), officials encourage anyone who operates an ATV to complete safety training. In about 92 percent of the 143 ATV-related fatalities in Minnesota since 2010, the operator didn’t have an ATV safety certificate.
“We’ve seen the same trends in our other safety education programs – people who complete them are less likely to be involved in fatal or life-threatening accidents,” said Capt. Jon Paurus, Enforcement Education Program coordinator. “Learning about safe operation of these vehicles is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of being involved in a tragic accident.”
Once they’re in the field, one of the simplest but most effective safety steps riders can take is to wear a helmet. While it’s recommended all riders wear one, it’s required of those under the age of 18. Whether they’re riding a Class 1 or a larger Class 2 vehicle, they must wear a DOT-approved helmet. It’s also vital that youth riders fit the vehicle they’re riding. They must be able to reach and control the handlebars or steering wheel and comfortably reach the foot pegs or brake/gas pedal while sitting upright on the ATV.
While regulations are designed to keep riders safe, they can only do so much. It’s up to parents and guardians to make the call whether kids are ready to operate ATVs on their own.
“We highly recommend active supervision of young riders,” Paurus said. “While they may have sufficient skills to start and stop an ATV – and to travel in a straight line – kids lack the experience necessary to respond to something unexpected.”