Since its introduction to the public in the 1960's, the All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) has encountered many controversies. Some of these have dealt with the issue of safety, as original 3-wheel ATVs proved to be too dangerous for riders. Even improved 4-wheel ATVs still represent certain risks.
controversy has been the age limits for the riders of ATVs. Many states
have prohibited minors under the age of 16 from driving an ATV. One of the most
predominant controversies regarding ATVs, however, has been the defining
of the areas in which they are permitted. Where and when these
vehicles are driven has continually popped up as an issue, as many drivers
irresponsibly disregard laws that prohibit the use of ATVs in certain areas.
The issues surrounding ATVs and land usage are many. A major problem is that
many riders intentionally cross over into privately owned property. They also
have made a habit of crossing into public and private properties where they are
obviously not intended to be. Often, the use of an ATV is strictly limited to
trails, but riders still feel the need to leave these trails and venture on to
Environmentalists are some of the biggest opponents of ATVs. They believe
that riders who use ATVs for sporting purposes are inconsiderate of the
environment. For example, they claim that the vehicle is used excessively in
areas that are largely considered biologically sensitive, such as wetlands and
sand dunes. Environmentalists claim that the deep treads on some ATV tires are
capable of digging channels that drain boggy areas. They also claim that these
tires damage the careful grooming of most snowmobile trails and increase the
levels of sedimentation in streams.
Proponents of ATVs, however, argue that the
deep-treaded tires are necessary for the safe navigation of muddy and often
rocky terrains. They also point to a number of findings that attribute the
erosion and decay of sensitive habitats to out-of-control housing planning and
industries that extract goods and materials from these highly sensitive
ATV advocacy groups have organized to address these issues. Some of these
groups have even gone so far as to purchase land for ATV riders to use. They
have taken additional steps, such as building and maintaining appropriate
trails for ATVs and obtaining permission directly from landowners to use their
land for riding ATVs. Most importantly, many of these advocacy groups have
committed themselves to educating ATV riders as to the best ways in which
they can safely and responsibly use ATVs.
Unfortunately, those who do not follow the rules often negatively affect the
image of the great majority of responsible riders. Those who see fit to
ride off designated trails, on private land without permission, and under the
influence of alcohol or drugs create a great number of problems for those who
play by the rules. In addition, self-regulation is particularly difficult since
the main public complaint against ATVs is that they create excessive noise.
Although the majority of ATVs comply with noise regulations, there are those
whose intentional violation of these rules can disturb the activities of other
recreational users for miles across open landscapes.
who are upset about irresponsible ATV use include snowmobilers who feel as
though their trails are misused. Hunters have also complained about ATVs, as
the loud noise of the engine often disrupts their attempt to catch game. These
are but some of the major complaints lodged against ATVs and the problems they
bring in regard to land usage and the environment.
Groups that support ATV riders have tried a number of methods to
lessen the negative effects of these vehicles. In addition to providing
designated areas for riders to enjoy, certain advocacy groups have
made an effort to educate all those who own ATVs on the safest and
most responsible ways in which they can operate their vehicles.