Safety School: ATV
By Midwest Traction on June 4, 2018
All-terrain vehicles are widely enjoyed for recreational use, but they also prove extremely valuable for basic tasks like farm work, snow removal, and yard maintenance. While these activities do not entail the high speeds and inherent risks associated with recreational ATV usage, injury is still possible.
Taking simple precautions minimizes your risk. We recommend you:
- Take training and safety courses
- Wear proper gear
- Mind the weather
- Abstain from alcohol use
- Ride cautiously on uneven terrain, especially on farmland where potholes may be hidden by taller grasses
- Tend to your tires
For professional racers, learning how to fall, handling a skid, avoiding a crash into a group fellow racers who are already in the midst of a pile-up, or circumnavigating a bad patch of course without losing speed are all part of training. While many of these maneuvers aren’t applicable for hobbyists, it’s important to know how to ride safely and correctly.
This is where the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) comes in. Founded in 1988, the ASI is dedicated to safety, education and awareness to reduce injuries and accidents on ATVs. Riding lessons at ASI are taught with a fun, relaxed, simple approach that recognizes the importance of respecting your vehicle, the land, the laws, and other riders.
Some of the topics include:
- Rider responsibility to the environment
- Where to ride
- How to treat your ATV
- Technicalities of riding via trail practice with varied terrain and difficulty
- Navigate obstacles, turns, etc
On Your Person
The usual protective gear includes helmet, goggles, gloves, long sleeves, long pants and protective footwear.
In most states, adults aren't required to wear a helmet, but it’s wise to use one. Ensure proper fit and fasten the chin strap - the helmet does no good if it flies off on impact. A fantastic motorcycle helmet will work for ATVs. When choosing, look for Snell Memorial Foundation or DOT labels. These have been tested for safety. Full face options are not necessary, but largely beneficial, whether avoiding weather or protecting from bugs.
Be mindful of your riding climate when choosing a helmet. Hotter climates will require good ventilation and lighter colors, with breathable fabric.
Glasses or Goggles
Goggles seal out flying debris while shielding your eyes from branches. They should fasten securely and have ventilation slits to prevent fogging. A gray tint is preferable for riding on sunny days, and yellow tint adapts well to overcast lighting. Make sure you wear clear goggles at night. No matter what tint or style, select goggles made from hard-coated polycarbonate with standardized markings such as z87.1 or V-8.
If you’re dead set on using sunglasses, make sure you have ones that strap onto your head. Regular sunglass will fly off.
Dust Mask or Bandana
In addition to filtering out bugs, a good bandana will keep a lot of dust out of your mouth, nose, and lungs. It will be the best $1 you ever spent.
While they won't cure your thumb cramps, they will prevent blisters and protect your hands from any other tasks you may need to do along the way, like repairing minor damage, patching a tire, moving a fallen branch, etc. Look for gloves that fit snugly while providing a bit of stretch. Gloves that are too big make it difficult to grip the controls and can cause blisters due to excessive rubbing. Off-highway gloves tend to have more padding over the knuckles to prevent bruising while providing more comfort.
Tip for sore thumbs: Roll a golf ball between your palms during breaks to massage and soothe sore muscles.
Even in hotter weather, it’s wise to wear long sleeves if you’ll be offroading. They protect your arms from the sun and minimize cuts from tall grasses and tree limbs. Look for dry wicking material that is lightweight and light in color.
The same reasons for long sleeves apply to pants with the addition of protecting your legs from hot machine parts. Ticks and other biting insects lurk in the wilderness. Pants prevent bites and poison ivy.
Sturdy, protective footwear is important. Hiking boots are durable and lightweight, making them an ideal choice. You’ll want over-the-ankle styles with low heels, and soles that provide good traction.
Remember that this list is the minimum you should wear to protect yourself in moderate to warm temperatures. You should also consider rain gear, warm clothing for cold months, and earplugs..
Extreme weather poses a certain amount of risk for ATV riders, and hot weather is no different. If you are planning to ride this summer, check the weather before you go, keep an eye on the heat index, and if it's too hot, do not ride.
Drink more fluids, irrespective of your level of activity. Do not wait until you are thirsty. Gatorade or Smart Water are better choices as they replace vital minerals like potassium, chloride, and sodium lost in sweat. Avoid consuming beverages with diuretic properties, like alcohol, caffeine, or sugary drinks.
Generously apply sunscreen before your ride. Riding with sunburn is no fun; all those bumps and jostles become excruciating when your skin is seared.
Avoid Heat Sickness
Even with precautions, heat-related illnesses, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, are possible. Heat exhaustion presents with disorientation, weakness, chills, dizziness, nausea, cramps, and a weak pulse. Heat stroke is quite serious. If affected, sweating ceases, skin becomes dry, flushed and hot. Body temp rises above normal level, resulting in feeling faint and confused. If you experience any of these conditions, stop your ride and find a shaded place to rest. Drink fluids slowly, and call for assistance.
It is important to note that not all ATVs are designed for multiple riders. If you own a single rider, never put more than one person on your vehicle at a time.
Here are a few quick tips for those who want to give double riding a try:
This is a no-brainer. Always wear a helmet, whether the law requires it or not.
Four-wheelers don’t have pegs like motorcycles. Ensure the drive has adequate room to move. The passenger will need to keep their feet back. Practice this until you're both comfortable and confident in your ability to ride for long durations without feeling discomfort or getting in each other's way.
Practice first on flat, safe, sound ground before adventuring anywhere with more terrain. You'll want to get a feel for how two riders changes steering, balance, and control on flat ground before you challenge yourself with obstacles and uneven trails.
Remember that the added weight can change tire performance. Check PSI and ensure that the tires aren't bulging under the weight of two riders. You may need to inflate slightly more to compensate for the load bearing. Check the treads while you're at it. If they're looking worn, or getting close to the wear indicator, it's time to replace them. You can find a huge selection in our online store!
There are innumerable styles of backrests on the market today, but for the sake of your passenger, use something with padding, especially if you're going to be covering long distances.
Remember to pack enough of everything for two. You'll even burn through a little extra gas. Make sure you have the proper safety gear packed and an emergency kit in the event that you'll need one.
Tires impact the safety and quality of your ride. They're often not thought of as one of the most important safety features, but many simple accidents can be avoided if you pay proper attention and follow a few easy steps to care for your tires.
- Make sure your tire is appropriate for the terrain, distance, and speed you require. Brands like STIDuro, and ITP make tires specifically designed for rugged performance.
- Inspect and inflate! Check for bulging and cracks, and ensure you have enough air to prevent leaks, flats, or blowouts.
- Do not ride recklessly! Avoid pavement edges, riding over potholes or curbs, and steer clear of sharp objects. Even the high-ply, toughest tires can get taken out by a nail.
ATVs don't always have the best reputation. Therefore, it's crucial that all members of the community treat everthing and everyone around them with respect. This means:
- Follow the signs
- Obey the law
- Keep noise to a minimum when possible
- Use maps and stick to the trails
- Do not venture into closed territory
- Do not litter
- Yield to oncoming riders, hikers, etc
Being mindful of a few simple things and brushing up on your skills will prevent a lot of unnecessary risks.
Socialize With Us
Where's your favorite place to ride in the summer? Tell us on social media!