Safety Tips for Summer Vehicles

Stay safe while riding recreational vehicles such as motorboats and ATVs this summer.

Stay safe on boats and other recreational vehicles, illus. by Ron Chan, image

Wear a life jacket while boating, no matter how well you swim. 

Motorboats, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), personal watercraft, motorbikes, and other summer rides are serious fun—emphasis on serious. Whether you’re off the road or on the water this summer, keep caution and common sense top of mind.

You booze, you lose Operating a recreational vehicle when you’ve been drinking isn’t just unwise, it’s unlawful. In most states, the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08 percent for ATV riders and boat captains—the same as it would be for car drivers—and a violation can lead to a felony conviction. If you’re on a boat, it’s not just the skipper who needs to stay sober: Intoxicated passengers risk falling in the water or capsizing a vessel.

Gear up right When off-roading, wear a helmet and goggles to guard against head injuries. You’ll also want gloves, tall boots, heavy pants, and a long-sleeved jacket to protect against cuts and abrasions. When you’re on the water, always wear a life vest, no matter how well you swim.

Obey the rules of the road (and the river) Never drive all-terrain vehicles on paved streets; they’re not designed for on-road use, and you also run the risk of colliding with a car. On a boat or personal watercraft, stay to the right when you approach another vessel head-on.

Act your age Children are involved in one-third of all ATV-related emergency room visits and fatalities. Often it’s because they’re riding on or driving adult-size vehicles—a definite no-no. Keep kids on off-roaders that fit them; ditto for motorbikes and watercraft.

Get educated Whatever your favorite recreational vehicle, chances are there’s a free safety class near you offered by a government agency or nonprofit organization. Even if there’s a modest fee involved, it’s a small price to pay to ensure that your summer fun stays just that.

Illustration by Ron Chan

This article was first published in May 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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