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Wear a helmet, and put safety first when operating ATVs

Wear a helmet, and put safety first when operating ATVs

RICHMOND—Before hopping on an all-terrain vehicle this spring, take a moment to prioritize safety over fun.

“People want to get out and explore nature and experience the outdoors,” said Scott DeNoon, senior farm product and underwriting manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co and member of the VFBF Farm Safety Advisory Committee. “ATVs are a popular way to do that, and it’s extremely important that riders practice safe operation to avoid accidents and injury.”

Serious accidents can easily occur with ATVs. A Lunenburg County community was recently rocked by the death of a 5-year-old girl in an ATV crash in which she was a passenger.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission revealed there are more than 700 deaths and 100,000 injuries annually involving ATVs. Additionally, a publication by the American Academy of Pediatrics stated approximately four pediatric patients are seen in emergency rooms every hour for ATV-related injuries.

“Depending on the dataset you’re looking at, the number of injuries and fatalities on off-highway vehicles has increased between 39% and 57% since 2020,” said Lee Watson, a paramedic and health and safety trainer for the Virginia Tech Environmental Health & Safety Department.

Watson is part of an ATV Working Group that partners with organizations and schools to conduct trainings and raise awareness about ATV safety. He stresses four main points when riding all-terrain vehicles.

“Wear your helmet, control your speed, avoid steep slopes and know your terrain,” he advised.

Watson explained that people often don’t understand ATVs’ limitations and will ride on slopes the machines aren’t designed for. Additionally, weather events can quickly change the terrain and add hazards like fallen trees and branches.

He’s also seen children riding adult-size ATVs—a major risk factor in accidents.

“There are guidelines about what size ATVs kids should be riding,” he noted. “A lot of people aren’t aware of those or don’t respect them.

“Nobody is trying to take the fun out of ATV riding,” Watson added. “The bottom line is a few key steps can make a huge difference in reducing your risk.”

Whether using ATVs for recreation or for work, follow these safety tips:

  • Always wear protective gear. This includes a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet, goggles, gloves, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and over-the-ankle boots.

  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and don’t carry more than one passenger on an ATV designed for two people.

  • Parents should supervise children and demonstrate safe riding themselves.

  • ATVs used by children should be sized correctly for children.

  • Enroll in ATV safety courses either through a local ATV dealer or Virginia Cooperative Extension. Free online courses are available at

  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

  • Never ride on paved roads, except to cross when it can be done safely and is permitted by law; ATVs don’t perform well on pavement.
Media: Contact DeNoon at 804-290-1379 or Linda Hazelwood, Virginia Tech communications manager for auxiliary and business services, at 540-231-3801.