ATV riding has become an extremely popular pastime in recent years. It can be a great way to get teens out of the house and enjoy Mother Nature, but this adrenaline-filled sport does not come without its risks. Unfortunately, driving ATVs can cause severe injuries and occasionally fatal injuries if something goes wrong or the vehicle is not being properly looked after.
The truth is, even the most experienced riders run the risk of injuries as soon as they gear up to ride their ATV. Just like with a car, regardless of your driving abilities, things can and do go wrong. According to Statistics Canada, 100 ATV-related deaths occur every year on average (source).
Even though ATV accidents and related ATV injuries occur, it should not put you off riding if it is something you are interested in and passionate about. Although there are risks involved, there are many things that you can do to mitigate them. To ensure your safety, we created this ATV safety guide with a list of the best ATV safety precautions.
What are the risks related to driving an ATV?
We cannot shy away from the fact that ATV accidents happen. As in anything in life, injuries are sometimes caused by negligence or mechanical malfunction, but these are the most common risks related to driving an ATV:
- Driver error
- Poor weather conditions
- Vehicle issues
Driver error is always a risk when it comes to ATV driving. There are various ways an error on the part of the driver can cause an accident, from a momentary lapse in concentration, to impairment due to alcohol or drugs. Frequent driver errors include not wearing the appropriate safety equipment and overestimating one’s capacity to operate an all-terrain vehicle.
As ATV riding is such a fast pace sport/hobby, it can be tempting for drivers to go far too fast for the terrain they are on. If you are driving at a dangerous speed, you are making yourself vulnerable to an accident because you are more likely to lose control of the vehicle. Additionally, it is harder to bring the vehicle to a halt if you spot any potential hazard while speeding on rough terrain.
Poor weather conditions
Poor weather conditions dramatically alter terrains. Even if you are going to ride a route that you have done before, whether it is rough terrain or as smooth as paved roads, if the weather is different, your vehicle will behave differently. For instance, rain can seriously affect many off-road tracks due to the excess mud it can cause, whereas snow and ice become dangerous on any surface.
In addition to external factors that cause ATV accidents, there can also be internal issues and things that are wrong with your vehicle. This becomes more of a problem the older your vehicle is. It is therefore important to regularly check your vehicle and give it the upgrades it might need.
It is important to fully understand the severity of injuries that can occur while ATV riding. These are some of the most common ATV injuries:
- Cuts and bruises
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Abdominal trauma
- Internal bleeding
- Psychological trauma
Safety tips for ATV riding
The risks are evident when it comes to riding ATVs, as their high center of gravity makes them susceptible to accidents. Thankfully, there are plenty of accident prevention techniques that you can implement to make your riding safe. Here are some of our safety tips to avoid ATV accidents and minimize the chances of fatal injury.
Wear a helmet
Helmet safety is essential for ATV drivers. In some cases, it can be difficult to avoid accidents riding your ATV, and wearing your helmet is the first step to reduce the damages you may face. If you were to crash, wearing a helmet is going to provide you with an extra layer of protection.
Your head is one of the most vulnerable parts of your body, and if you experience a serious impact on your bare head, it can be a fatal injury. Wearing a helmet when you operate an all-terrain vehicle will protect your skull from serious brain injury in the event of a fall. It only takes one wrong turn to put your safety gear to use, so wear it!
Wear other safety equipment
Although helmets are arguably one of the most important pieces of protective gear, it is not the only thing that you should be wearing to protect yourself. Something as simple as the clothes you choose to wear when riding your ATV will help protect you from injury, even if it is just minor scratches. For example, wearing long trousers and long sleeve tops will protect you from scrapes and cuts that might occur from rogue debris.
You should also consider wearing eye protection and ankle boots as they are safety gear that will provide you with an extra layer of protection and stability. Without eye protection, obstacles as simple as dust could get into your eyes and prevent your ability to properly see the rough terrain. Without proper shoes, you might lose your footing. It is therefore important to wear protective gear to minimize the chance of accidents.
Take an ATV Safety Course
A hands-on safety training course is probably the best way for you to fully grasp all the things you need to do when riding your ATV. They provide you with multiple injury prevention tips. From the best practice to adopt when skidding, or how to perform first aid on someone else, safety training has made ATV road trails a safer place.
When not to ride an ATV
There are some instances when you simply should not operate all-terrain vehicles. You should not ride an ATV in the following situations:
- If you are under 16
- If you are on paved surfaces
- In bad weather
If you are under 16
No one under the age of 16 should be riding an ATV since it is prohibited by law. Even if you think your child is mature and responsible enough to handle the demands of an ATV, their physical abilities are not adequate for what is needed to ride an ATV. If the machine tips over them, they might not have the strength to dislodge themselves from underneath.
Even adult ATV riders sometimes struggle with the physicality needed to ride an ATV. If your child is under 16 and interested in ATVs, we recommend getting them to direct their passion into ATV riding preparation so that they will be ready when the time comes.
On paved surfaces
ATVs are not cars, they are not built to ride on paved roads. There is more of a chance of you losing control of your vehicle on a paved surface than there is on rough terrain, so you should stay clear of paved surfaces when possible.
In bad weather
Bad weather will change the terrain that you are driving on and can make it more dangerous, especially if there are adverse weather conditions. Whether it be rain, snow, or heat, you really should not be riding in any kind of extreme weather, as this exposes you to additional risks. If the bad weather creeps up on you while you are already enjoying a ride, adapt your driving to the circumstance, and watch out for any ATV riders that may need your help!