As a pilot, I ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, file a flight plan with the FAA before I get in an airplane as pilot-in-command. I file one even if I am only out flying transit lines, practicing turns, touch-and-goes, sightseeing, and such. Even if it weren’t part of the rules of flying, it’s just smart and it’s safe.
I do the same thing when I’m out on my ATV.
The difference is I file the “ride plan” with my wife (sometimes she’s more strict than the FAA) via e-mail and leave a copy of the plan on the desk at the house. Additionally, I sometimes file it with one of my children who live in other states (also via e-mail), just to make sure someone knows where I plan to go, when I plan to be there, how long I plan to be there, when I plan to leave, and when I should be pulling into the driveway at the house.
I make copies of any maps I might have of the area(s) and mark the route(s) I plan to travel and leave the map where it is easily found. If I’m riding with friends, I make sure their names and cell phone numbers are included in the ride plan.
Whether I’m riding with friends on logging roads, on farms, deer or turkey hunting on my lease, waterfowl hunting in another state, or just out running my birddog, I file a ride plan. Safety is, of course, the Number 1 reason for the ride plan, but I’ve found I learn a lot about the routes I plan to take when I file a plan and often reroute my ride to either more scenic routes or easier routes to travel (read: easier on my ATV — at least that’s what I tell myself).
Ride plans are simple to put together. Just include the date and time you intend to leave the house, when and where you plan to take your ATV/UTV off your trailer, when you plan to head out on the trail, any planned stops of more than 15 minutes, when you plan to be back at the trailer, and when you plan to be home.
On overnight trips, I make sure I call home when I get to hotels or restaurants to let my wife know my ride plan is still pretty much intact or that there are some changes in destinations and/or times. If significant changes take place in the middle of the outing, I call, e-mail or utilize some other means of letting the person I filed the plan with of those changes.
Your ride plan can be more complex if you want, but no matter what form it takes, filing it can make the difference in finding you if you have a problem or you having to figure out a way for help to find where you are.
File a ride plan when you take your ATV/UTV out. You won’t be sorry.
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Tony Dolle has been writing about and working in the outdoor, entertainment and manufacturing industries for the past 35 years as a journalist, marketing, public and media relations professional and as a resource user (hunting, angling, cycling, sailing, photography to name just a few). He’s been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for his work as a news reporter, has been president of several national, regional and state professional media organizations and has worked tirelessly to promote the conservation of the nation’s natural resources. He is Executive Vice President of Windward Communications — a company that specializes in successfully changing the marketing status quo for businesses. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.