10 Tips for Riding an ATV at Night
Riding an ATV is a whole lot of fun, especially at night. But it's also a lot more dangerous. The hazards of ATV night riding might elevate the rush for thrillseekers, but the fun could end with injury or death.
We're not about killing your ATV night-riding buzz. However, the risk to both the rider and machine are greater at night, which is why preparation is necessary if you want your quad adventures in the dark to be enjoyable and safe. Here are 10 safety tips for riding your ATV at night.
1. Install Lights and Reflectors
When riding your ATV at night, you need to be able to see and be seen. Even if your quad already has headlights on it, you should still consider upgrading it with brighter LED bulbs, or mounting other additional lighting. Adding reflectors to a quad makes it much more visible to other riders. Helmet lights are also highly recommended, as they offer riders illumination in any direction they turn their head.
2. Bring a Winch
Day or night, if you plan on riding through mud, a winch is an essential ATV accessory. It's much harder to pick a good route through mud and much easier to get stuck in it at night. A winch is your best friend when it comes to getting your ATV out of the mud. It also comes in handy with your ATV or side-by-side for use around your yard, and for many other purposes besides getting unstuck, so you should invest in one for your quad regardless.
3. Gear Up
Call it "Safety 101", but a quality helmet, goggles, gloves and boots are essential when riding an ATV any time, day or night. Temperatures drop at night, so gloves and a jacket are good for comfort as well as safety. A sturdy off-road jacket shields you from rain, and protects you from getting battered by branches. When gearing up for a night ride, spray yourself with bug repellent too, as mosquitoes and other pests tend to come out and play more after dark.
4. Make a Pre-Ride Inspection
Inspect your ATV before every ride, day or night. Check the wheels and tires for signs of damage, and make sure the tire pressure is correct. Inspect the chain tension, set it correctly if it's off, and check the sprockets for any broken teeth. Make sure all levers and pedals are working, and test the lights before heading out. Don't forget to fill up the fuel tank, unless you want to get stranded out in the middle of nowhere.
5. Use the Buddy System
Never ride solo at night. The chances of an accident are far greater after dark, and if something bad does happen, it's best to have others around who can help. Only ride on designated trails, as your chances of encountering problems are much smaller than venturing out into an unknown path. Designated trails also increase the likelihood of finding other riders nearby to flag down for help if needed.
6. Ride Within Your Field of Vision
Keep an eye on your speed, and don't outride your headlights. The overall stopping distance (reaction and braking time) of an ATV is about 200 feet at 30 MPH, and 325 feet at 45 MPH. The headlights on your quad probably don't reach much past 150 feet, so drive accordingly. In other words, don't ride faster than your headlights' ability to illuminate potential hazards in the distance.
7. Beware of Obstacles
Always be on the lookout for obstacles, and be prepared to take preventative action. Typical hazards when riding at night include potholes, tree stumps, boulders, fallen branches, ditches, bumps and wild animals. Another mistake to avoid making is focusing on the taillight of a rider in front of you. Unless you focus on the trail itself, you won't see any obstacles the leading rider has swerved to avoid until it's too late, and you'll probably hit them yourself.
8. Avoid Fatigue
Riding an ATV can be exhausting any time, but the additional concentration required to ride safely at night can quickly fatigue a driver. This can be exacerbated by the fact the body grows tired as the day passes. Pull over every so often, take a break and use the opportunity to hydrate yourself. As soon as you grow tired, pack it up for the night and head home.
9. Don't Drink and Drive
You'd think it's common sense and we wouldn't have to mention it, but you'd be surprised how many people still mix alcohol with riding their quads, especially at night. We all love a good party, but still, never consume alcohol before going for a quad ride. Not only is it illegal to operate an ATV under the influence, but it's a surefire way to damage your ATV or worse yet, experience some common ATV injuries.
10. Take an ATV Riding Course
In many states, ATV riders have to complete a mandated riding course before being allowed to ride a quad. Even if your state doesn't require it, taking a rider training and safety course will help make you a better rider and prepare you for venturing out in the dark.
While some of these tips really boil down to common sense, we hope they serve as a reminder to stay safe and alert when riding your ATV at night.