Common Fatal ATV/UTV/Quad Operator Mistakes

Common Fatal ATV/UTV/Quad Operator Mistakes

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ATVs are fun. They are easy to drive with little or no training. Just sit down, turn the key, hit the gas, and off you go. Because of their simple operational characteristics and how versatile and capable ATVs are, an operator can build too much confidence too quickly. This can lead to disastrous situations. Here are some common, sometimes fatal, mistakes that ATV operator’s make:

  1. Overriding your sight distance: It’s easy to jump onto an ATV and get going at excessive speeds. Unfortunately, this tendency doesn’t allow operators to properly read the terrain, usually resulting in an accident. Considerations include weather conditions, mud, rocks, ruts, blind corners, wildlife, and familiarity with terrain among others. Operators must match their speed to the terrain that they’ve selected and to what visibility conditions allow for.
  2. Using improper body positioning while traversing steep slopes: Often ATV operators will find themselves in situations where “side hilling” is necessary. Many operators don’t even think twice before side-hilling, and because of this, many of them end up rolling their ATVs causing catastrophic damage to their ATV and sometimes themselves. This has become such a problem that most manufacturers will advise people to never ride on this sort of terrain (see mistake #3). Of course, when using their all terrain vehicles, side hilling is sometimes necessary and operators will need to make the decision to do it safely. This can be done by using proper body positioning while side-hilling: shift your body to the uphill side of the ATV. This will not only help reposition the center of gravity thus making rollover more unlikely, but, should rollover occur, it allows the rider to more easily dismount to the uphill side of the ATV, minimizing the chances of being trapped under the ATV as it rolls.
  3. Disregarding the liability issues: Over 20 years ago, the federal government declared ATVs an “imminent hazard.” This was also around the time that 3-wheeled ATVs were ordered to no longer be manufactured or sold as new. Manufacturers began covering their machines with warning labels and providing consumers with basic safety videos upon purchase of one of their ATVs–all this to protect them against any liability of accidents. These guidelines are typically very strict (i.e. “this machine must never ascend a hill steeper than 25 degrees”), but the problem is that most machines will easily exceed these limitations, which can result in accidents. When these accidents occur, who is responsible? Typically, it lies with the operator, and if the investigation determines that the manufacturer guidelines were not being followed, the operator can be cited. If injuries result from the accident, then the operator may be liable. In the workplace, operators can be criminally liable. Instances have been reported of citations being issued for supervisors who did not provide adequate training and purchasing managers who did not supply efficient equipment for operators.

As an ATV operator, it’s your decision and your responsibility to operate your ATV safely. A simple parking lot safety course is little more than a hands on demonstration of the very basics. Advanced skills and knowledge are required for difficult terrain, trailer loading and unloading, weight distribution while negotiating slopes and other hazards. Don’t let the ease of ATV operation fool you into unsafe riding practices!

These are just a few of the common mistakes that many operators make, for more comprehensive training, check out our ATV Training Courses.

These tips are brought to you by our own Todd Horning.
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