Gaining Traction: Safety Tips for the ATV Rider

Gaining Traction: Safety Tips for the ATV Rider

One look at a map of Canada tells you everything you need to know about the growing popularity of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). We are a country that has plenty of backwoods, with wide-open, rocky and rough terrain.

Canadians love to get on a machine, twist back a throttle and explore the country. According to a report issued by market research firm Technavio, the global ATV market accounted for sales of 442,300 units in 2016, and is expected to reach 509,810 units by 2021. It’s a market dominated by the United States, then Canada. Canada’s market share in the global ATV market as estimated by Technavio is 11.56%.

But there’s another statistic that is a little more sobering: Between 2016 and 2017, there were 2,834 injury hospitalizations nationwide as a result of ATVs, according to information provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). That was third behind cycling (4,268) and falls on ice (8,864).

There was also a 7% increase in ATV-related brain injury emergency department visits in Ontario and Alberta from 2012-2013 to 2016-2017.

ATVs have been evolving to match the market demand. The newer generation can carry four passengers. Some even have air conditioning. And they are more powerful. Operators can zip along trails at a faster clip than ever before. Better suspension systems and shocks on the vehicles mean they better absorb the bumps and dips.

Safety first

Wayne Daub, general manager of the Canadian Quad Council, the national voice for Canada’s ATV community, says with the number of ATV users on the upswing, preaching safety is their top priority. Daub says they still have a long way to go when it comes to safety and education.

“The biggest fallacy about this, is people go in and purchase these machines and think they handle like a car,” he says. “The way an ATV handles is completely different. And if you don’t have someone there to help you, with the experience in how to use the machine, that accounts for a lot of crashes.”

With that in mind, seven ATV safety tips you need to know about:

  1. “Wear your helmet. Wear your helmet. Wear your helmet,” Daub says. By far most injuries and fatalities occur when riders are not wearing helmets.
  2. Drive sober. Again, another common cause of crashes – people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Don’t accept a ride from someone operating an ATV who is under the influence, either.
  3. Ride responsibly. Most crashes do not occur on organized trail systems, Daub says. They happen in ditches, where folks are riding illegally. Maybe they hit a culvert coming into a driveway. Maybe they hit a tree, or another vehicle. Daub has been riding for years and says he doesn’t need an ATV bigger than 500 cc (cubic centimetres – related to the size of the engine, and the power, speed and smoothness). That does the job just fine, he adds. And that is something for people to think about.
  4. All gear, all the time. It’s not just about wearing a helmet, Daub says. It’s also about wearing long pants, a long sleeve shirt, gloves, eye protection, and proper footwear.
  5. Never ride alone. This one is big. It is tempting on an ATV to get caught up in the moment. They are powerful vehicles. It can be as simple as thinking that puddle coming up is six inches deep, then you get into it and you are buried up to the handlebars. Then there is no way to get out because you don’t have a buddy there.
  6. Learn how to ride. Take lessons. “Many people fall under the peer pressure thing,” Daub says, “where they travel up a hill that’s 75 degrees, thinking they won’t have a problem. But a new rider may not know that in that situation you have to lean way forward on that machine, or they will upset themselves quickly.”
  7. Join a club. Start here, and find something that works for you. Get involved with organized ATVing. Ride trails that are meant to be rode on. With a club, you are tapping into a network of people who are maintaining trails, making sure they are safe for an ATV.

And finally, get insurance if you are going to ride an ATV. Talk to your agent about the ins and outs of ATV insurance and get what’s right for you.