Today’s ATV have come a long way from the original three-wheel models and are a lot safer to ride. But dealers and users remind new owners that safety is still every user’s responsibility.
“What we’re seeing for the most part is that accidents are really going down. People are becoming very safety-conscious,” said Ron Gibbs, Honda House sales manager. “Be sure that you have dressed safely” for an off-road experience, he added. “Especially for new owners, it’s a brand new unit, and these folks are not really used to it.”
Cathy Cobb, a chesterfield county ATV owner, said safety is her top concern when riding. “We always wear a helmet,” Cobb said. “When we do things that we need to wear gloves, we’ll wear work gloves—and safety glasses if you’re going to ride through the woods.”
A 2014 study of ATV accident records by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that more than half of all accidents occur when alcohol is involved or the vehicles are driven on paved roads. And more than half of all fatalities occurred when the rider was not wearing a helmet.
“The most important piece of gear you’re going to have is your helmet,” Gibbs said. “I think that’s extremely important, because that’s your head. It’s the only one you have, so you want to protect it. The goggles obviously go with the helmet, then gloves and then maybe some high-topped shoes or boots, whatever the case may be.” Long sleeves and long pants can also help protect a rider, he said.
ATVs are popular on farms and in rural areas because they’re both useful tools and fun to ride. Several larger models allow for passengers or more cargo, but they still are designed solely for off-road use. The tire tread on ATV wheels is too aggressive for bare pavement and easily can cause steering or traction problems, Gibbs said.
“I’ve got a 10-acre farm, and I’ve got horses and it’s so much easier to put a bale of hay on the back of that ATV and run it down to the pasture,” he said. “So that’s huge. ATVs now lend themselves to agricultural uses where you can put on sprayers or plows. There are so many pieces of equipment that are available for ATVs that make farm work a lot easier.”
Safe riding instructions and even courses are available at most ATV dealerships, and Gibbs said they’re well worth the time.
“There is a list of rules on the ATV itself, and also in the owner’s manual. If you adhere to those rules and regulations, the possibility of becoming injured is extremely small.”