News: Set the conditions for ATV safety
Story by Maj. Joel Anderson
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska – When most people think of Alaska, one of the first things they think of is the great outdoors.
One of the best ways to get out farther into Alaska’s great outdoors is with the help of an ATV – all-terrain vehicle. These off-road marvels are (arguably) one of the best things to ever come long for outdoor enthusiasts.
Whether you already own an ATV, are planning to purchase one soon, or are planning to participate in an upcoming Outdoor Recreation or Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers tour, the Fort Wainwright ATV safety course needs to be your first stop.
The course is a requirement for all of the Outdoor Recreation Center’s ATV trips, as well as for BOSS, but even though it’s not required before you operate or buy an ATV of your own, it is highly recommended. It’s just a great way to get a lot of experience in a short amount of time and in a controlled, supervised riding environment.
“We conduct this course as a pre-req for all of our ATV trips, but that’s not all, it also gives people a chance to get comfortable riding and familiar with the handling characteristics of these machines,” said ATV Safety Instructor, Joe Woodrome.
Woodrome went on to point out that the key to learning to ride an ATV safely, just as with any new skill, is to focus on the fundamentals.
First of all, the The ATV Safety Institute uses the acronym T-CLOCS to impress upon new riders the ingredients for a proper pre-ride inspection.
T-CLOCS should be a regular part of every ATV rider's routine and is a helpful reminder of the essentials every motorcycle rider should check weekly and before a long ride, according to the institute.
The 'T' stands for 'Tires and wheels'
Check your air pressure, tire condition, and ensure axle nuts and wheel nuts are tightened and secure before every ride.
The 'C' stands for 'Controls and Cables'
Check the location of all controls while sitting on the ATV and make sure they work properly. Check the throttle and other cables – make sure the throttle moves smoothly and snaps closed with the handlebars in any position. Brakes – ensure they operate smoothly and are adjusted properly and positioned for easy reach. Finally, be sure the foot shift is firmly attached and positioned for safe operation, if so equipped.
The letter 'L' stands for 'Lights and Electrics'
First, check the condition of the ignition switch and make sure it works. Next, check your engine kill switch and finally check the headlights and taillights.
Oil and fuel are next
You don’t want to get stuck out in the middle of nowhere thanks to running out of gas, so be sure to check you have a full tank of gas before you hit the trail. Also, be sure to check the oil levels for your engine using the dipstick in accordance with your owner’s manual, but also look around the machine and down on the ground for any unusual oil leaks and take a look to see if your air filter is torn or clogged.
Last, but not least is 'Chain and Drive Shaft Chassis'
If you have a chain-drive ATV, inspect the chain for proper adjustment and lubrication. If the ATV you’re riding is equipped with shaft-drive, simply check it for any leakage and be sure to maintain proper lubrication. Other than that, check all the nuts, bolts, and other fasteners for any loose parts, especially when it comes to major components such as the handlebars, seat, and foot-pegs.
Another acronym, SIPDE, is a five-step process used to make riding safer.
SIPDE broken down looks like:
Keep your eyes moving. ATV riders need to search the terrain for hidden hazards and continuously check their overall riding environment. This is best accomplished by watching or scanning several seconds ahead of you and avoiding the natural tendency to fixate on any certain point.
Pick out specific problems and consider: composition of your riding surface, other trail users and wildlife, as well as any nearby stationary objects.
Predict what will happen
Think of consequences, consider necessary riding techniques, and predict the results of your choices.
Decide what to do
Slow down so there is time to react. Next, pick the best line or path and consider the following: traction, obstacles (within your skill level), and visibility. Finally, ATV riders should choose to generally reduce risk overall and choose to stay well within personal limits and capabilities of your ATV.
Execute the decision
Adjust your riding technique, adjust your speed by slowing, accelerating, or braking, and adjust your path of travel.
ATV safety isn’t only for soldiers. Family members appreciate the opportunity to join in the orientation class too.
“We keep having more spouses and family members come out,” Woodrome said. “Spouses have told me, ‘This was so great because I was scared to get on one before and now I’ll be able to go out and ATV with my husband and my kids.’”
Woodrome went on to mention some of the personal fulfillment that comes with making sure people are able to safely enjoy some of the natural bounty Alaska has to offer.
“…and that’s another thing, it really makes us feel good to know that we’re making a difference here in the Wainwright community. We’re all about being able to offer people fun and enjoyable activities they can enjoy together as a family and especially when we can help them to do it safely,” Woodrome said.
An ATV safety course schedule can be found by looking in the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, “Bear Necessities.” The monthly publication can be picked up at numerous FMWR locations on post including the Last Frontier Community Activity Center and the Post Fitness Center or you can check online at www.ftwainwrightfmwr.com.