MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. - Whether on or off-duty safety is always paramount, but certain leisurely activities are inherently more dangerous than others.
Riding All-Terrain Vehicles (also known as quads) are one such activity, which is why service members are subject to certain rules regarding their use and operation.
Service members and Department of Defense civilians who operate personally owned ATVs must participate in an off-road course for the vehicle they own, according to Marine Corps Order 5100.19F. The course may be taken on base or at a local dealership.
Brian Korves, motorcycle and traffic safety officer on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., runs the ATV Rider Course here.
The riding course is designed to reinforce riding fundamentals and reduce the risk inherent with riding quads, Korves explained. The course teaches you techniques on mounting and dismounting, turning, breaking, accelerating, and proper body positioning when riding up and down hills or encountering various obstacles.
“You just can’t sit on the machine and expect it to handle or operate properly (by itself),” he said.
The course also covers the required safety equipment, he added. The personal protective equipment required for DoD employees and service members are boots, long pants, long sleeve shirt, full fingered gloves, and a Department of Transportation approved helmet (a "DOT" sticker is located on the helmet signifying it meets standards.)
In addition to the required safety gear: shin, knee, elbow, and chest pads are recommended, added Korves. It is especially recommended for those riding on rough terrain or attempting any jumps on a quad.
Korves can teach any ATV engine size, which range from 30cc to 850cc. The course also covers which engine sizes are appropriate for which age ranges. While the size, strength and skill level of riders under the age of 16 is a factor, it is generally recommended to follow the manufacturer’s recommended age for the type of quad being ridden. Most quad manufacturers will have a sticker on the fender of the quad or a designation in the owner’s manual for the recommended age.
“The biggest thing to do when (buying) an ATV, whether right off the showroom floor or out of someone’s garage, is get the owner’s manual for it,” said Korves.
This way owner can know how the quad is supposed to be maintained and properly operated. It also lets owners know how to properly inspect their quad.
For inspections, the course teaches an acronym called TCLOC – it represents Tires, Controls, Lights, Oils, Chains and drive shaft chassis, said Korves. It’s a basic pre-ride inspection to make sure the ATV is ready to ride. There is nothing worse than riding about 10 miles out from camp and breaking down because a proper oil check wasn’t performed.
While the riding course fulfills the Marine Corp’s requirement to operate quads, it is also important to know the state laws governing them, said Korves.
“In the state of California, ATV operators are required to wear a helmet at all times when operating an ATV on public lands,” said James White, California Highway Patrol officer.
ATVs are required to be titled and registered with the state once a year, said White. Owners will receive a numbered plate for the ATV signifying it is properly registered.
Additionally, ATV operators may be subject to other state, county, or city laws and ordinances based on where they’re riding, said White. It is important for the rider to educate him or herself on where they are allowed to ride and to do so legally and safely.
Riders looking for information on locations where riding quads are permitted can go to the Bureau of Land Management’s Barstow Field Office.
Right now the rider’s course is held quarterly, the next course is scheduled for late Nov., Korves said. However if more people are interested in taking the course, Korves will set up a special class for them.
“I would rather them get the proper training, so at least they know the basic safe operations of the ATV before they go out into the desert and get themselves hurt,” said Korves.
Ultimately, the goal is safety. Whether a new rider or an experienced rider, it is important to take the ATV Rider’s Course.
As important as it is to ride within your skill level, it is just as important to ensure safety at all times.