The Best Safety Tips for ORV Drivers (part 1)

Date:Sep 24, 2020

Having fun on off-road trails or getting a demanding job done are high priorities when using an ATV or UTV, but safety should always be the highest priority. Much of the potential danger of riding can be mitigated by undertaking proper UTV/ATV safety training, making sure your off-road vehicle (ORV) is in good working order, and taking the appropriate safety precautions. 

How to Be Safe Before Your First Ride


A great place to start for effective learning on how to operate and ride an ATV or a SxS is a reputable training course. Many of which combine online and/or classroom instruction with supervised riding. The RiderCourse offered by the ATV Safety Institute is an example. Even beyond that kind of supervised teaching, there’s much you can do to make sure you’re ready to safely take to the trails being safely prepared.


What Size ATV or SxS UTV is Right for You?


It’s essential to choose the right size machine for a particular rider. This information can be found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual. When it comes to ATVs, make sure you or other riders can effectively and safely control the vehicle.


For youth riders, start by following the age-group recommendation for an ATV of a given size and keep close tabs on your child as he or she learns the ropes of the vehicle. Look for signs that it may be too much for them to handle, regardless of whether they’re considered the appropriate age.


Most UTVs are adult vehicles, meaning the minimum age for operation is 16, with operators having a valid driver’s license. For passengers, they should be tall enough to keep their backs flat against the seat back, their feet flat on the floor and their hands on the hand holds.


For youth UTVs, operators and riders alike should be at least 10 years old. These vehicles also have height requirements that the owner’s manual outline for each vehicle. Lastly, as a parent, you know best your child’s maturity level – this must also be considered when determining if your child is ready to take to the off road.


Protective Off-road Gear


Both ATV and UTV riders of all ages must wear helmets, which is in many areas even required by law. Even if you’re belted in within the cab of an enclosed side-by-side, a crash, collision, or rollover can still result in a head injury—especially if riders aren’t wearing helmets.


We’ve prepared a guide specifically on choosing the right ORV helmet, and we urge you to check it out. To summarize, make sure you select a helmet that fits your head properly, that meets or exceeds U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and/or SNELL safety standards, and that hasn’t been dropped or involved in a prior accident. Full-face helmets, such as Motocross style, are recommended for off-roaders.


A face shield or goggles provide required and essential additional eye protection to be integrated with a riding helmet. After all, your head may be protected by a helmet, but if dust or sand gets in your eyes, your vision is dangerously impaired—even if just for a moment.


Both ATV and UTV riders must wear sturdy, over-the-ankle boots for the best grip on the footrests and the best protection against rocks, brush, and debris, as well as the heat of your machine.


Long pants and a long-sleeved shirt are also required when off-roading. Riding pants and a riding jacket or vest provide further protection, offering insulation and protective padding while enhancing comfort; you can also add elbow, shoulder, and knee pads and/or chest protectors to your outfit for bolstered security. Rainwear or heavier-duty shells may be advisable depending on the weather conditions and season you’re riding in.


Riding gloves - also required - improve your grip and protect your hands against chafing, debris, and the strain of your ORV’s vibration.


Inspection of Your Off-Road Vehicle


Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth ride on an ATV or UTV, always thoroughly assess your vehicle before setting out. Pre-ride inspections can reveal malfunctioning or damaged vehicle components, low fluids, and other issues that could get in the way of your day on the trails.


Check your tire pressure and visually inspect tires for wear, punctures, and other issues; ensure wheel and axle nuts are tight, and try to rock tires to pinpoint loose fasteners or worn bearings. Make sure all lights, switches, and gauges are operating correctly. Check fuel, lubrication, and coolant levels, and look for any signs of leakage. Check throttle adjustment (if applicable), shifter, and brakes.


Give other fundamental parts of the system—from the drivetrain and suspension to cargo racks and boxes—a once-over to identify any potential loose parts, breakage, or other problems.


The owner’s manual for your ATV/UTV contains a pre-ride inspection checklist to use each time you ride so you’re always covered. This is one of those simple steps that can pay off big time in terms of warding against preventable vehicle breakdowns and injuries.


Understanding the Controls & Parts


Make sure you understand the basic operation of your ATV or side-by-side UTV before you start it up. Don’t assume you know how to operate an unfamiliar model just because you may have experience on another vehicle. There’s quite a bit of inherent variation in how ORVs are designed, and furthermore every vehicle drives differently and has its own feel that you’ll need to be familiarized with.


Study the owner’s manual and take the time to practice in a safe, level, accessible area so you’re comfortable with your machine before you take it on a full-length ride. When it comes to younger operators, it is helpful to let them explore the machine under your close supervision.

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