Safety tips for newbies and veterans
Ripping through the woods or a down a long country road on a dirt bike or ATV is thrilling. It’s the perfect way to spend an afternoon with family and friends – as long as you do it safely. No matter how much fun you’re having, always keep in mind that the ATV or dirt bike you’re riding is not a toy. It’s a powerful machine that demands your attention to the little details that will keep you safe.
“We treat many patients suffering from injuries sustained while riding ATVs and dirt bikes,” said Saul Francis Rigau, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. “It’s not only new riders we treat. Even experienced riders can get into trouble if they’re not following the proper safety procedures.”
Ten safety tips to keep you riding smoothly this summer
Before you hop on your bike or quad, review the following safety tips to maximize your fun and minimize the danger:
1. Wear the proper gear: Protective gear is essential. You’ll need a DOT-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeve shirt and pants, gloves and over-the-ankle boots.
2. Inspect your ATV or bike every time: A quick inspection before you start will help to keep you safe. Look for worn and damaged tires and rims, worn chains and sprockets and make sure cable connections are intact.
3. Stay on the trails, not the road: ATVs and dirt bikes are designed for off-road riding, not on paved surfaces. Riding on a public road increases your risk for being hit by another vehicle.
4. Never ride under the influence: If you’ve used alcohol or drugs, save your ride for another time. Your judgment and reaction time will be impaired, making it harder to maintain control. Plus, it’s illegal.
“One drink begins to impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle,” said Dr. Rigau. “Your vision, motor skills, vigilance and attention all suffer when you’ve consumed alcohol or drugs.”
5. Supervise children at all times: Younger riders need more supervision and training on dirt bikes and ATVs. More than 25 percent of ATV crash victims seen in emergency rooms are under the age of 16.
6. Use the buddy system: Never ride alone because you’ll need a friend to help if you crash; the unfortunate odds are that you’ll need emergency care to save your life. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 75 percent of all ATV crashes result in a debilitating brain or spinal cord injury.
7. Know your limits: Never try to ride a dirt bike or ATV that is too large or powerful for your size and skill level. Any mistake you made will be amplified by a bigger, faster vehicle.
8. One rider per vehicle: Unless you are riding an ATV specifically designed for two people, stick to the one-rider rule. “Piggy backing” or “side riding” increase the chances for injury, both for the driver and passenger.
9. No showing off: “Goon riding” is a recipe for disaster. The laughs you’ll get from showing off for your friends are not worth the very real risk for injury it creates.
10. Take a course: Learning proper riding technique from a professional is the best way to stay safe. Many instructors will also offer advice on local spots where you can ride safely and legally.
“You should always carry a cellphone with you and know your approximate location,” said Dr. Rigau. “If you or a friend suffers an injury, call 911 right away.”
Saul Rigau, MD, is an emergency medicine physician at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton. For more information, visit Geisinger.org.