National Wildfire Coordinating Group

ATV - How to Properly Ride and Operate

Vehicles - Roads
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Mar 2022


Riding an ATV correctly allows the operator to control the machine easily and react more quickly to changes in terrain and environment. Proper riding posture includes:

  • head and eyes up, looking forward,
  • shoulders relaxed, with elbows bent slightly,
  • hands on the handlebars,
  • knees in toward the gas tank,
  • feet on the footrests, toes pointing straight ahead, and
  • back straight but not tense.
  • To turn an ATV, keep most of your body weight on the outside foot peg and lean your upper body into the turn. Never lower your foot to the ground for stability as it could cause ejection if foot is caught by the tire.
  • When climbing hills, shift your body weight forward to keep the front wheels on the ground.
  • If stopped while going uphill, do not apply the rear brake only. Apply equal pressure to both front and rear brakes, but never only to the rear brake. Get off the machine and turn it around to proceed down the hill.
  • When going downhill, keep the engine running and in low gear, apply both front and rear brakes with even pressure and avoid sharp turns. Slide body forward on seat towards gas tank, keeping body weight back by leaning backwards. This will help keep weight on back wheels and lessen the potential to flip the ATV over forward.
  • Avoid sidehill situations. When they are unavoidable, lean into the hill.
  • When carrying a load uphill, if possible, place load on the front of the ATV to help keep the front end of the ATV from flipping over. If going downhill, place load on back of ATV to help keep the ATV from flipping over forward. If loads cannot be adjusted, try to equalize the load on front and back if possible. Drip torches should be mounted on back.
  • Only operate an ATV under the conditions for which you have been trained, qualified for, and have experience riding.
  • As a last resort to avoid an impending collision, roll off the vehicle and kick yourself free of it.

Additional Resources

Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110 
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center


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