Two ATV riders, in helmets, preparing for ride in forest

Off Road Safety

DF SafetyPersonal Safety Guide

Off-highway vehicles (OHVs) like ATVs and UTVs are fun recreational vehicles as well as useful work tools when jobs need to be completed in the bush. Because of their recreational status, we sometimes underestimate their potential for hazards. However, their unique builds and specific operating requirements can easily make operators the victims of incidents if they are not aware of the dangers of operation. 

Seven Safety Tips 

There are several safety tips to keep in mind when operating an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) or a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV). Today, we’d like to offer our top seven tips for OHV Safety: 

Wear proper safety equipment 

Ensure you are outfitted with the appropriate safety gear when operating an ATV or UTV. The best option for riders is to have a well-fitting, full-face helmet that extends out in front of your mouth and chin. This will provide the best protection for your head and face in comparison to an open-faced helmet. You will also want to wear suitable clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, and over the ankle boots. Protective gear provides safety from potential harm and substantial injuries. 

Be properly trained 

Understanding the vehicle and how to properly operate an ATV or UTV is incredibly helpful to ensure your safety. Before operating a UTV, familiarize yourself with its controls, handling, and safe riding tips. By educating yourself on proper use, you reduce the chance of an accident, keeping yourself and others safe. 

Understand your abilities 

Depending on how educated and seasoned of a rider you are, you want to stay safe by driving within your abilities. This means driving at a speed where you feel comfortable and is suited for not only your skill level, but also for the terrain you are travelling on. It is best to stay on paths or areas you are familiar with, be aware of your surroundings, and know your limits. Don’t take unnecessary risks and avoid unfamiliar areas as much as possible. 

Be responsible 

When driving off road, you should always ride on designated trails or areas that have been approved for ATV or UTV use. Do not trespass and ask for permission prior to driving on someone else’s private property. It is also important to be cognizant of areas that may be populated with wildlife, or other trail users. 

It is also recommended that children under the age of sixteen not operate an ATV or UTV. Those under this age are at a higher risk of injury due physical strength limitations, cognitive maturity and judgement to operate equipment safely in comparison to other age groups. 

“From 2015 through to 2020 in Alberta, children and youth 16 years and under sustained the following: 6908 ATV-related ED & UCC visits, 563 ATV-related hospitalizations, and 13 ATV-related deaths.”

Alberta Health Services 

Don’t ride under the influence 

When operating any kind of vehicle, you should never be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Since riding requires alertness, and good judgement, you must be sober to stay focused and keep everyone safe from accident or injury. 

Never ride alone 

It is good practice to travel with another rider, or in a group. In case of an emergency, or issues with the vehicle, it is helpful to have someone who can offer guidance or assistance. Riding with others also means having someone to look out for you, and someone to offer their expertise and guidance along the way. 

Stay aware 

Depending on where you are riding, terrain may differ. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to the paths you are travelling on. Stay aware and be cautious when on uneven or rough paths, and pay attention for things likes rocks, tree stumps, or ditches. You will also want to keep an eye out for wildlife, oncoming vehicles, and people. When riding in low light, use your headlights and taillights. Avoid riding in the dark or in poor weather conditions to ensure optimal safety. 

DF Safety offers an online ATV/UTV course using live action demonstrations, animated diagrams, and interactive activities, which will provide you with the knowledge necessary to operate and control your OHV both safely and effectively. Throughout the course, we cover hazards common to OHV operation, hazard controls, ATV and UTV components, and best practices for operation. If you are interested, please find the course online to register. 

By including these seven safety tips into your recreational driving practices, you will help enhance your safety, as well as your enjoyment when operating these types of vehicles. Ride safe this summer and have fun!