The Bluegrass State boasts a rich variety of breathtaking landscapes. From rolling hills to lush plains, scenic river bottoms to the rugged Cumberland Plateau, Kentucky ATV riding enthusiasts can find a trail on nearly any kind of terrain. Old access roads and trails from the coal industry have also left an extensive network of riding opportunities. There’s no doubt that ATVs are a great way to have fun outdoors and, for some families, are a long-standing tradition. However, it’s important to remember that ATVs are also powerful, potentially dangerous vehicles. Every month, thousands of people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries received while riding an ATV. Many of these people become paralyzed or suffer some other severe internal injury due to accidents. Between 1982 and 2007, over 9,300 people lost their lives in ATV related crashes, and 419 of them were in Kentucky. An additional 120 Kentucky deaths were associated with ATVs from 2008 to 2011, and that number could rise as reporting for those years is still ongoing. The majority of ATV crashes occur in rural areas, and although ATVs are designed for trails, many crashes happen on paved roads. The rates of injury and mortality are attributable to increased use as well as the production of larger, faster and more powerful ATVs. The first ATVs typically had a 7-horsepower, 89-cc engine and weighed between 160 and 200 pounds. In contrast, some current vehicles have engines of more than 600 cc and 50 horsepower, weigh more than 400 pounds, and reach top speeds of more than 100 miles per hour. Although much attention has been paid to ATV fatalities among children, in recent years most fatally injured ATV riders have been men. Ninety percent of the ATV driver deaths in the federal government’s database of fatal crashes were 16 and older, and 90 percent were males.
- Don’t allow a child under age 16 to drive or ride on an adult ATV.
- Never allow more riders than the ATV was designed to carry.
- Never assume that other people or animals will see you and avoid your path.
- Prepare a detailed trip plan and let someone know where you will be riding as well as when you expect to return.
- Stay off of paved roads and be very careful if you have to cross one (ATVs have low-pressure tires and a solid drive axle, which makes them prone to tipping on paved surfaces).
- Take an off-road vehicle safety course or an online course.
- Use good common sense, because if a hill looks too steep, it probably is.
- Watch well ahead on the trail and know what is coming.
- Wear a helmet, eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.