For people thinking of joining the fun on June 1-2 when registration and trail fees for all-terrain vehicles and utility-terrain vehicles are waived in Wisconsin, now is the time they should review safety tips so they can enjoy the trail time.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden Gary Eddy, who also serves as the administrator of the Bureau of Law Enforcement's ATV safety program, said the ATV-UTV sport is growing in the state, thanks to a system of trails maintained by citizen groups also dedicated to ensuring its safety for all.
"One person operating recklessly or in an unsafe manner can ruin the experience for a lot of people," Eddy said.
In 2012, there were 15 ATV fatalities in Wisconsin. Of those fatalities, 14 were not wearing helmets.
"If you have never ridden before, or it's been a while since you've been on the trail, June 1-2 is a great opportunity for you and a good reason to review these safety tips," Eddy said in a statement.
- Complete an ATV safety course. These courses establish a safety mindset and provide basic knowledge in the safe, legal and ethical operation of ATVs. The ATV Safety Institute (ASI) Certification is not valid in Wisconsin. Safety education certification is required for all UTV and ATV operators born on or after January 1, 1988. DNR recreational safety specialists recommend all ATV and UTV operators complete a safety course
- Always wear an approved helmet. Adults need to set a good example for younger riders. Over 90 percent of the fatal crash victims last year were not wearing helmets.
- Limit your travel on roadways and use caution when operating on roads. ATVs have a high center of gravity and are equipped with soft, low pressure tires that make them unstable on roadways. Only operate on roads posted with the green and white "ATV Route" signs. All other roads are off limits to recreational ATV operators.
- Don't drink and ride. Even a small amount of alcohol will affect a person's reaction time. Wait until you're done riding for the day before consuming alcoholic beverages; 40 percent of the fatal ATV crashes last year were alcohol involved.
- Slow down, especially when in close proximity to other people and ATV operators. ATVs typically operate on off-road terrains and higher speeds could cause operators to easily lose control. Speed also increases the amount of distance needed to stop or avoid a hazard.
- ATVs and UTVs are highly unstable on paved surfaces. Stay off the roads unless they are marked and approved ATV routes.
- Slow down. Public ATV trails are not race courses. Expect to meet other people on the trail.
- Stay on the right side of the trail. Bumps, puddles and rocks are part of the trail-riding experience; don't endanger others by riding on the wrong side of the trail. Slow your speed and safely ride through these areas.
On June 1-2, ATV/UTV owners can ride free; you do not need to have your machine registered in Wisconsin. Nonresident ATV/UTV owners do not need to have a trail pass on these days.
The free ride is part of Free Fun weekend in Wisconsin's great outdoors. In addition to free ATV/UTV riding, fishing is free everywhere in Wisconsin and state hiking and biking trails are free. On June 2, admission is free to state parks and forests.
"Safety rules will be enforced for the benefit of all," Eddy says of the Free Wheeling Weekend.
Learn more about ATV/UTV safety and registration policies, and where to find safety classes, search the DNR website for keyword" "ATV."