Special Reports

How ATV industry works to make riding experience safer

Companies that make the machines that roam over the Oceano Dunes are well aware of the dangers and try to help customers avoid them.

But the final word, they say, belongs with the riders or, if they're children, their parents.

In 2007, 16 million people used all-terrain vehicles, according to a study on the Web site of the All Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute, a nonprofit trade group formed in 1988. They're used on beaches and in agriculture, industry and the military.

So the industry tries to stay in front of safety requirements.

The ATV Safety Institute provides a four-hour training program for those who buy a vehicle, said spokesman Mike Mount. Its Web site, www.atvsafety.org,lists trainers by region and invites others to be trainers.

The institute says it has 2,100 safety instructors, conducts 200 classes a week nationwide, and in 2006 taught 44,468 students.

The institute provides the industry with a litany of safety tips and recommends, for example, that no one younger than 6 ride a motorized vehicle and that other children ride one that is age-appropriate.

However, all of these are advisory measures only.

Even after training, there is little oversight when the ATVs head to the Dunes. There simply isn't the money to hire enough people to maintain safety on the hundreds of acres of sand dunes.

Concessionaires are aware of this, and some of them try to train their clients before they head into the sand.

WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU RIDE

The ATV Safety Institute's Golden Rules:

  1. Always wear a helmet and other protective gear.
  2. Never ride on public roads; another vehicle could hit you.
  3. Never ride while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.
  5. Ride an ATV that's right for your age.
  6. Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
  7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
  8. Take an ATV Rider Course; call toll-free at 800-887-2887, or go to www.atvsafety.org/.
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