Safety should always be the starting point for any ATV adventure. While ATVs are fun, they are still vehicles and accidents can happen. In addition to the rules and regulations for trail riding in West Virginia, here are a few safety tips for kids to minimize those accidents and keep everyone safe on family ATV trips.
Get the Right Gear
One of the most crucial rules is having the proper equipment before operating an ATV. Riders under the age of 18 should be wearing Department of Transportation (DOT)-compliant helmets, goggles and gloves. Always purchase DOT-approved protective gear because it goes through strict safety tests to comply with requirements. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants and over-the-ankle boots are also helpful to wear while riding.
When buying youth ATV helmets, correct sizing is extremely important. If the helmet is too big, it will not properly protect your child’s head because the extra room will allow space for their head to rattle. Yet, if the helmet is too small, it will be painful to squeeze into. Fortunately, measuring for an ATV helmet is easy! Wrap a tape measure around your child’s head one inch above their eyebrows. This will give you the circumference of the widest part of their head. Once you have this measurement, compare it to the helmet brand’s size chart found on most retailer websites.
Goggles are imperative for ATV riding due to the all-terrain environment. Your child could run the risk of mud, dirt, stones, sticks or other debris flying into their eyes at high speed. Most popular brands offer youth sizes for their goggles, but unlike helmets, most can be adjusted with a strap.
Gloves offer convenient protection for the knuckles in case of an accident, as well as aid in gripping the handlebars for control. Since long rides can cause sore hands for kids, gloves are a way to protect them from aches. You can find youth ATV gloves in a range of sizes, styles and colors.
While not essential, armor is recommended since it can protect children from chest injuries in case of an accident. Most armors are adjustable with velcro or button waist straps.
An appropriate pair of boots for ATV riding are rugged, weatherproof and almost indestructible.
When buying or renting an ATV for your child, it’s important to understand the variations in these all-terrain vehicles. A kid’s ATV is designed with a child’s form and function in mind and prioritizes their safety. When choosing an ATV for your child it is crucial to choose the right size that matches their skill level. The guidelines to help you find a safe fit on a kid’s ATV include brake reach, leg length, grip reach and turning reach. Proper fit can make a significant difference when it comes to the ability to drive and control the vehicle. If you aren’t ready to purchase an ATV for your child, rent one from a local outfitter to test it out.
Where To Ride
Practice makes perfect when it comes to ATV riding. Practicing riding on a regular basis helps children gain confidence and familiarize themselves with the machines and trails. What better place to do that than the world-famous Hatfield-McCoy Trail system?
The best place to start on the trail system with new riders is on the green trails. Blue trails are also great for younger riders who have built up their confidence and experience.
The Pocahontas Trail System has excellent paths for youth riders. Pocahontas is most noted for being one of the largest continuous areas of the HMT network. The trailhead is located in Coaldale, just outside of the historic town of Bramwell. In addition to the rich history and scenic views found along the trail, riders have close access to food, fuel and lodging in Bramwell and Montcalm. This is an exciting network for young riders because the majority of the trails are green (22%) and blue (47%). To extend your off-road trip, the trail system also connects with three other HMT systems — Pinnacle Creek, Warrior and Indian Ridge. These trail systems create the most continuous miles of trails east of the Mississippi.
No one under the age of 6 is allowed on the trails under any circumstances, and any operator or passenger under the age of 16 must be under the direct supervision and within the eyesight of their parent or guardian at all times. Visit The Hatfield-McCoy Trails website for a complete list of rules and regulations.
How to Ride
As we mentioned in our previous ATV safety blog, group formation is one of the most valuable tips for safe riding, especially with kids. Since your strongest riders should be the leader and the last person in the group formation, always arrange kids in with adult riders. Another significant piece of information kids should know is the proper hand signals to use when riding.
Safety should always be your top priority while out on the trails and is very important to teach young riders. After you’ve reviewed these guidelines with your child, plan a family ATV trip to Mercer County this year.
This post was last updated on May 27, 2021