Whether for sport or for fun, riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is a popular activity during good-weather months. It can be easy to forget that riding ATVs is dangerous; they should not be treated like toys. While you, your friends, and family have fun riding, you should remember that serious accidents can happen if proper safety precautions are ignored.

In fact, nearly 500 ATV-related fatalities happen in the United States each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. To make sure you and your fellow riders remain unharmed, follow these safety tips every time you ride.

1. Never ride alone

While you shouldn’t take passengers on your ATV, you should find at least one other person with a vehicle to ride alongside you. The nature of ATV riding means that accidents are likely, from running out of gas to serious crashes. It’s always a good idea to have a buddy who can help you get out of a tough spot.

2. Make sure your ATV is the right one for you

ATVs come in a variety of sizes and types. When choosing one, consider what you’re using it for (Trail riding? Racing? Towing?) and factor in your skill and strength level. Larger ATVs require much more strength and control to manage, and smaller machines have less power. Children under 16 should not operate ATVs with engines larger than 90cc.

3. Only ride within your capabilities

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Don’t attempt tricks or stunts requiring more experience or skill than you have, and don’t ride in areas you can’t easily navigate. Even though ATVs are designed for off-roading, stick to established trails. You never know what obstacles you could meet if you stray too far from the beaten path.

4. Don’t ride on public roads

Riding on paved/public roads and deviating too far from trails can be just as dangerous, because it’s all too easy for other vehicles to hit you. Take care when crossing paved roads and only do so where legal.

5. Wear proper gear

A Department of Transportation-approved helmet, goggles, gloves, long pants and sleeves, and over-the-ankle boots should always be worn while riding. Ensuring your body is properly protected can help keep you safe if an accident does happen.

6. Stay alert

Minimize accidents by not riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You should also stop riding if you feel extremely tired. Look straight ahead while your ATV is in motion so you’re aware of all upcoming obstacles. Also be aware of where other riders are around you and know the experience level of other riders around you.

7. No passengers allowed

Unless your ATV is specially designed for two riders, don’t take any passengers when you’re riding doing so endangers their safety and yours.

8. People under 16 shouldn’t be left unsupervised

Remember that ATVs are dangerous, powerful machines. Since 1982, approximately a quarter of all ATV-related fatalities were children younger than 16, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, about a quarter of ATV-related injuries in recent years happened to children under 16. Accordingly, children should never ride alone and should always be supervised by an adult.

Before you start riding, it’s a good idea to enroll in a hands-on ATV safety course to learn the basics and help prevent ATV accidents. Learn more by visiting the UPMC Trauma Care System website.

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Emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye or in a heartbeat. And when they do, minutes matter. UPMC’s Emergency Medicine and Trauma Care services are ready to provide world-class care, no matter how serious your emergency. All our Emergency Departments have a full-time staff of emergency specialists at the ready 24 hours a day. We use advanced technology to diagnose and treat your condition and coordinate with your doctor to provide the best care possible. We also have specialized trauma care at several of our hospitals. If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest Emergency Department.