ATV/UTV riders beware of winter conditions
Ride sober, slow down, wear a helmet
For the MERRILL FOTO NEWS
MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is urging ATV/UTV riders to be mindful of potentially dangerous winter conditions when operating recreational vehicles during the extended riding season.
Many of the state’s trails have yet to be covered in snow, but just because a winter road or trail is legally open for riding doesn’t mean it’s safe. Frost, ice, and fresh snow can cause slippery conditions. UTVs and ATVs may have great traction off roads, but that can change when they are driven on roadway routes in winter.
“Be extra careful, especially when slowing down and approaching turns,” said Lt. Warden Jacob Holsclaw, DNR Off-Highway Vehicle Administrator. “Nothing stops fast on slippery pavement, and these machines do not handle the same as a car or a truck.”
In 2023, there were 32 fatal ATV/UTV crashes in the state, the most recent of which happened on Dec. 31 [in the Township of Scott in Lincoln County].
The consumption of alcohol or drugs, excess speed, driver inexperience, and operator error are the leading causes of fatal crashes.
A few safety tips to keep in mind when operating an off-highway vehicle in the winter include always wearing a DOT-approved helmet, using a seatbelt, letting someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return, and dressing for the weather and carrying a lifejacket, ice picks, and dry clothes when operating on the ice.
Wisconsin law requires ATV and UTV operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, who are at least 12 years old for an ATV and at least 16 years old for UTV must complete an ATV safety certification course to operate in Wisconsin. An exception is on private property owned by operator’s immediate family. These safety courses can be taken online or in person. A list of approved safety education classes is available on the DNR Safety Education webpage.
Wisconsin law also requires every operator involved in a crash incident to report the incident without delay to law enforcement officials. Operators must submit a written report to the DNR within 10 days of the incident.