All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are motorized “off-highway” vehicles that many individuals and families use recreationally. They’re a good time had by all, and can be used for the odd job around farms as well, like for snowplowing, killing weeds, camping, field plowing, hunting, winching, and plain old joy rides. Unfortunately, despite their versatility and the fun times so many of us have with our all-terrain vehicles here in the province of Ontario, ATVs pose a potential for injury and death. Between 2013 and 2019, in all provinces and territories in Canada, 100 people died as a result of unintentional ATV incidents. While the circumstances are not entirely known, ATV fatalities are a real risk, and it’s imperative that all of us recreational vehicle lovers do our best to stay safe while using them.
Here are our top 10 tips for ATV safety in Ontario.
No. 1: Know the provincial laws.
In Ontario, there are regulations surrounding ATVs. As a general rule of thumb, in all provinces, ATVs must be registered, display a license plate (apart for some regions in northern Ontario) and, if they are operating on public roads or on public land, be insured with ATV insurance Ontario, drivers who are using their ATVs on-road must:
- Be 16 years or older
- Have a valid G2/M2 license
- Travel at speeds less than what is posted
- Wear a seat belt, if provided
For off-road riding, ATV drivers must:
- Be 12 years or older, unless they have direct supervision from an adult
- Carry the ATV’s registration permit/a true copy
Passengers of ATVs must be at least 8 years old and wear a seatbelt or use the applicable footrests.
No. 2: Always wear correct riding gear.
When riding an ATV, always wear a helmet, even if it isn’t mandatory while not on public land. Use protective gear such as goggles, to protect yourself from flying debris, long pants, long sleeves, and gloves to ensure that, if there is a fall, you won’t skid and burn your skin.
No. 3: Do not allow unsupervised children to ride ATVs.
Despite what the laws say, children under the age of 16 should always be supervised while using ATVs. Yes, young children can ride ATVs, but incidents can happen quickly. They could run off a path, hit wildlife, hit a tree, another ATV…the list goes on. ATVs can come in different sizes and models. If you have a child who can ride an ATV, suit them with one that is fit for their age and size.
No. 4: Ride only on designated trails.
Despite their name, all-terrain vehicles can’t technically blaze through thickly forested woods or up steep, craggy slopes. They’re great at adapting to uneven, rocky or earthy terrain, but it’s best to stick to designated trails and avoid “roughing it” in the thicker woods. This can be seriously dangerous, and may even risk the ATV flipping over if it catches an odd edge.
No. 5: Avoid riding at nighttime.
It’s better to ride when you can see the road ahead of you. ATVs aren’t equipped for nighttime riding like cars are, so it’s best to stick to the daylight for when you want to head out for a joyride.
No. 6: Never ride during poor weather events.
Hailstorms, high winds, snowfall, heavy rain, etc. – these can all pose a risk to ATV riders, due in part to the fact that visibility is reduced, but also because your ATV may struggle on slick terrain and/or mudslides and landfalls can be treacherous to riders.
No. 7: Have a base knowledge of first-aid.
Accidents happen. Nicks, bumps, scrapes, etc. – it’s better to know how to treat these on the spot than risk an infection. You should also be aware of who to call in the event of an emergency if an accident does occur.
No. 8: If you’re planning to drink or smoke, don’t drive.
No, ATVs are not cars, but that doesn’t mean that driving under the influence doesn’t have its fair share of risks. Driving under the influence impairs your decision-making abilities, meaning you may be more likely to drive in the dark, drive unsafely, forget riding gear, or ride where it isn’t cleared to do so. If you, or any of your passengers are planning to drink, maybe save the ATV ride for another day.
No. 9: Avoid carrying more passengers than the ATV is designed to carry.
ATVs may come equipped with features that help you to carry passengers, like additional seatbelts or footrests, but they may only be able to carry so many. If you’re riding a two-person ATV, it might be best to avoid taking on another person and risk someone falling off or getting seriously hurt.
No. 10: Opt out when it comes to third-wheelers.
Most third-wheeler ATVs in Ontario are no longer being manufactured due to their safety risks. If you are offered the chance to ride on an older third-wheeler or have the chance to purchase a used third-wheeler, it’s better to spend your money on a newer, safer variation that won’t put you and your fellow riders at risk.
As always, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Use your common sense when riding your ATV and remember – while it may not be a car, and while it may never see public land or roads, an ATV is still a vehicle that can pose serious risk to its drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, so it’s best to take the responsibility of ATV ownership seriously to avoid any mishaps.