How to keep it safe when riding an ATV for work or weekend fun
Blazing the trails on all-terrain vehicle (ATV) can easily give you that outdoor thrill you desire. Make no mistake—ATVs are big and powerful, with some serious muscle reaching speeds of 105 km/hour and weighing up to 800 pounds.
The safety of cars we drive in everyday offer us a shield of protection in the form of seatbelts, windows and doors; whereas the lack thereof—and pure openness of an ATV provides both the reward and the risk.
A fun day of riding can turn into a rollover nightmare in an instant, leading to serious injury or even death.
According to the Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research (ACICR), ATV injury stats paint a not-so-pretty picture. From 2004-2014, there were 145 deaths related to ATVs in the province, averaging 14 deaths per year. A significant number of those deaths were due to head injuries and riders without a helmet.
So, whether you’re riding alone, with your family, on a hunting trip, for work, or good ‘ol fun—exercise caution before you trek off-road.
Both novices and pro riders should observe these 10 tips for safely using an ATV.
- Inspect your ATV before each ride.
Make sure all parts are in working order—headlights, tail lights, tires, brakes, gears and controls are all intact. Check cables and connections and make sure you are looking for wear and tear. Practice braking and shifting gears slowly if it’s been a while. Do this every time before you ride. If something isn’t right, don’t ride until you get it fixed.
- Wear the right gear: certified helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
Not only should you wear the right gear, ensure it fits properly and is secured in the right places.
- Stay off paved roads, unless you’re crossing one and it’s permitted by law; only ride on designated trails.
ATVs aren’t meant for highways and streets. Riding on-road in your off-road vehicle defeats the purpose and can also trash your wheels. Ride where it’s legal.
Also check the forecast before you ride. Changing weather conditions could make the terrain more challenging and potentially more dangerous.
- Don’t drink or use drugs and ride an ATV. And get rid of any other driver distractions.
You know better than to drink or do drugs and then drive right? Same goes for operating an ATV. You put yourself and others at risk if you’re impaired while driving your ATV.
Stay sober and focus on riding with your full attention.
And put away other distractions like your cell phone. Save the selfies for when you’re safely stopped and out of the way.
- Always keep both hands and both feet on the ATV.
Keep your feet firmly planted on the foot pegs and don’t let them dangle to the sides. Your legs could get caught up in the rear spinning wheels.
- Check the manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure the ATV is right for the rider.
Right-size the ATV to the person’s age, height, weight and experience level. Motosport recommends an ATV engine size of 125cc to 250cc for beginner older teens and adults; 250cc and up for intermediate to advanced riders.
Starting on a four-wheeler ATV might be easier for beginners, whereas a dirt bike might prove to be a challenge for the non-pro rider.
- Don’t overload. Only carry a passenger on an ATV designed for two people.
No piggy-backing, side-riding or seat modifications. Most ATVs are designed for single riders. Adding a person can make your ATV unstable.
- Always supervise riders under the age of 16.
In some provinces, it’s illegal for riders to be under 16. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends children under 16 should never ride ATVs, even as a passenger. ATVs generally aren’t designed for children and they may lack critical physical, cognitive and motor abilities to safely operate one.
If it’s legal for your child to ride, exercise caution and repeat steps 1 to 10 on this list.
- Different provinces have different rules and regulations. Check out the law in your province. And, take an ATV training course.
In Canada, ATV laws vary across provinces and jurisdictions. Check your local transport authority for specific legalities and by-laws related to the safe operation of ATVs.
ATV training is available throughout Canada and certified through the Canada Safety Council. Riders are taught all the basics such as navigating controls, reading terrain, turning and climbing hills.
- Watch your speed.
Bumpy, rocky, patchy, muddy, rugged, rocky, sloping, uneven and hilly. These words describe the terrain you’ll likely encounter while riding an ATV. Add increased speeds to the mix and you could find yourself flipping over with the vehicle on top of you, or you could be thrown from the vehicle altogether.
Practicing these 10 safety tips will help you get the most out of your off-road ATV adventure—and could potentially save your life.