As the popularity of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) has risen to an all-time high, so too have deaths and injuries. Despite warnings from manufacturers, federal agencies and consumer and safety advocates that ATVs are unsafe on roadways, they’re showing up there more and more, partly because of relaxed state and local laws. The result? Nearly two-thirds of fatal ATV crashes occur on public or private roads. Yet, ATVs continue to share the roadway with cars and trucks in cities, towns and counties across the country. Before you strap on a helmet and turn the key, you should know the risks associated with these powerful vehicles.
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are made for off-road use. They don’t have on-road tires, lighting or turn signal equipment needed for highway use. Plus, they have a high center of gravity and a narrow wheelbase that prevents them from being easily controlled on paved roads. So why are large numbers of people driving them on public roads?
South Carolina Laws on ATV’s
Let’s consider age for a moment. How old should a driver be in order to conduct ATV’s safely? South Carolina law says the minimum age to operate an ATV on private land is six years old, however they may not carry a passenger until the age of 16, and they must wear a helmet and eye protection. There is a safety certification for operators under 15, and they must carry a certificate of completion while driving. Source – NCSL.
Off-Road Rules for a Safe ATV Driving Experience
Here are some quick tips to help all drivers stay safe while operating an ATV:
- Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law. ATVs are designed to be operated off highways and public roads.
- Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.
- Ride an ATV that is rated for your age.
- ATVs are not toys; Supervise riders younger than 16.
- Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
- Consider taking a hands-on ATV RiderCourse at ATVsafety.org.
Reader Input on ATV’s
The majority of ATV deaths happen on roadways, a fact the Consumer Federation of America’s Rachel Weintraub is working to reverse (listen to the podcast). Would roadway ban on ATVs improve safety? Share your thoughts.