Safely tips for riding an ATV on Kentucky’s rolling hills

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Kentucky is known for its rolling hills, but these hills can pose great dangers when navigated by inexperienced all-terrain vehicle drivers.  Under-standing how to safely ride on hills is important for ATV drivers of all ages and experience levels.
Navigating hills improperly could cause the driver to lose control or cause the ATV to overturn. Both could result in serious personal injury or death.

ATV drivers should know their limits and realize that some hills may be too steep for their abilities. Some hills may be too steep for drivers of any age and ability to safely travel.

It’s important for drivers to use good common sense when deciding on whether to climb a hill because if it looks too steep, it probably is.

Drivers should always look ahead for changes in the landscape. As a hill approaches, it’s important for the driver to shift to a lower gear and accelerate to gain momentum to climb the hill. Drivers should keep feet firmly on the vehicle’s foot rests and keep their weight going uphill at all times.

When climbing a hill, drivers may need to switch to a lower gear to keep the engine from jerking or stalling. To keep the wheels on the ground, shift quickly and briefly release the throttle.

If the ATV doesn’t have enough power to reach the top of hill but has forward momentum and room to turn around, drivers should make a U-turn when possible and proceed downhill in a lower gear while keeping their weight going uphill.

If the ATV loses forward momentum, apply the brakes and then the parking brake. Dismount on the uphill side of the vehicle.

One of the worst case scenarios of riding an ATV on hills is when the vehicle starts to roll backward. If this happens, the driver should keep their weight going uphill and apply only the front brakes.

Drivers should apply the back brakes only when they’ve came to a complete stop followed by the parking brake. Applying the back brakes abruptly when the vehicle starts to go backward could cause the vehicle to flip.   Once the vehicle stops, drivers should dismount to the uphill side of the vehicle.  If the vehicle continues to roll backward, drivers should dismount immediately on the uphill side.

To descend a hill, drivers should always look ahead, keep their weight uphill, use a lower gear, keep the speed slow and gradually brake. They should make sure their path is clear of as many obstacles as possible.

Going across a hill rather than straight up or down can be equally dangerous. Drivers should avoid traversing a slope that is slippery, rough or has loose dirt. Their weight still needs to lean uphill with feet on the vehicle’s foot rests. They may need to turn their wheels uphill if going across soft terrain to keep the vehicle steady. If the vehicle begins to tip, drivers should turn the wheels downhill if possible and if not, immediately dismount the vehicle on the uphill side.

Remember Kentucky law requires parental supervision at all times for those under 16-years-old riding an ATV, and the vehicle’s engine should not exceed 90 cubic centimeter displacement. Those under 12 should not operate an ATV with an engine size more than 70 cubic centimeters displacement.  All ATV drivers and riders should wear proper riding equipment (helmet, gloves, long sleeve shirt, long pants and boots).

Source: Jann Burks, 4-H youth development specialist and 4-H ATV Safety

Ralph Hance is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for 4-H and youth development.