MADISON, WI -- With more crashes involving all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles this late summer state conservation wardens are urging all operators and riders to remember safety steps. Wisconsin has seen 16 fatal crashes involving all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles this year.

Gary Eddy, off-highway administrative warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says wardens statewide are encouraging all operators and riders to "Wear it Wisconsin!"

"That means wearing helmets for ATVs and UTVs, and your seat belts on an UTV," Eddy said.

Anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet, and that helmet must meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards.

Eddy says a common factor in fatalities is the lack of wearing helmets and not wearing the UTV seatbelt.

Versatile vehicles best used with safety in mind

"These machines are popular for work and for play, and their use continues to grow in Wisconsin," Eddy said. "Since you can't predict when an incident will occur, it is best to protect yourself and your passengers for that possibility. Simply put on the helmet, fasten the safety straps and click the seatbelt."

One safety tip is to never ride ATVs or UTVs alone. If a mishap happens, you may need immediate help.
"It is always important to remember safety while operating these vehicles for work or recreational purposes," Eddy said. "These machines are often operated on paved surfaces and across rough terrain.

These conditions bring their own set of hazards. That's why the use of safety equipment is so important. Many of these tragedies may have been prevented had seat belts and helmets been used."

Eddy urges all ATV and UTV owners to spread the "Wear it Wisconsin" message by setting a personal rule that helmets and seat belts are always used on their machines. Also, educate others you know on the importance of using helmets and seat belts. "A little positive peer pressure on your family and friends can help," Eddy said. "We want everyone to stay safe and have fun while using these versatile vehicles.

Below are more of Warden Eddy's safety tips for all ATV-UTV riders:

  • Never drink and ride. ATVs and UTVs are challenging enough to operate sober; adding alcohol endangers everyone around you. Practice "Zero Alcohol" and wait until you're done operating all vehicles before consuming alcohol.
  • "Seize the keys:" Control who and when your machine is being operated.
  • Complete an ATV safety course. All ATV riders at least age 12 (and UTV operators at least age 16) and born after January 1, 1988 must complete a course prior to operating an ATV or UTV. This course may be completed either in a classroom or over the internet. Search the Wisconsin DNR website for ATV Safety" to learn more.
  • Use extreme caution while operating on paved surfaces. ATVs and UTVs highly unstable on paved surfaces and cannot be operated in the same manner as a car. All maneuvers must be made in a slow, controlled manner. Corners cannot be taken at the same speed as other motor vehicles.
  • Never ride alone. If a mishap happens, you may need immediate help.
  • Slow down, be responsible and expect to meet other people while on trails.
  • Stay on the right side of the trail. Rough terrain and puddles are part of the experience; don't endanger others by riding on the wrong side of the trail. Cross obstacles in a controlled and safe manner.
  • Don't operate your machine outside the limits or capabilities of you, the machine or the environment (trail condition, terrain, hours of darkness, etc.)
  • Headlights and tail lights are required at all times while on public roads. All turns must be indicated by use of turn signals or hand signals.
  • ATV/UTV is among our state's favorite recreational activities in the summer months. Stay safe and stay responsible.

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