Danger zone: ATVs on farms

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have become indispensable for some farmers. However, ATVs can also be dangerous if safety precautions are not followed.

Injuries increasing. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has been tracking ATV safety issues for several years and reports that accident and injury rates are increasing at a rate higher than would be expected, based on new sales of the vehicles.

The commission’s data supports the conclusion that ATVs are dangerous and are often used improperly – resulting in injury to the rider.

Use a helmet. The use of personal protective equipment is the first step toward ATV safety, according to Kansas State University Research and Extension’s agriculture safety specialist John Slocombe. He recommends the following equipment for personal protection when driving an ATV:

* Helmet with a face shield and goggles. The equipment should fit snugly, be securely fastened, ventilated, and be approved by the American National Standards Institute.

* Leather boots or shoes. This means quality boots, or over-the-ankle work shoes with good heels and slip resistant soles.

* Gloves and protective clothing. Depending on the task, long-sleeved shirts, full-length trousers, and well-padded gloves are normally recommended.

Avoid loose-fitting clothing, which could easily catch on the ATV while in operation.

Use common sense. The second step for safe ATV operation involves using common sense safety rules-of-the road. Slocombe offers the following advice:

* All riders should complete training from a certified instructor.

* Vehicle should be the appropriate size for the operator.

* Always read the owner’s instruction manual and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for use, maintenance, and pre-use checks.

* Do not operate ATVs on paved roads. ATVs are not designed for use on pavement.

* Do not operate any motor vehicle when using alcoholic beverages.

* Observe local laws or regulations and any regulations that have been established for public areas where an ATV is permitted. If you don’t know what your local laws and regulations are, check with local law enforcement.

* Use lights, reflectors, and flags to improve visibility.

* Do not allow anyone under 18 to operate or ride an ATV without proper adult supervision.

* Use proper riding posture; which should be covered with training.

* To turn an ATV, keep most of your body weight on the outside foot peg and lean your upper body into the turn.

* If carrier racks are installed, add both front and rear racks for stability and a balanced load.

* When climbing hills, shift your body weight forward by leaning to keep the front wheels on the ground.

* When going down hills, keep the engine running and in gear, apply the rear brake and avoid sharp turns.

* Avoid “side hill” situations. When they are unavoidable, lean into the hill.

* Never allow extra riders on the ATV.

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