The summer is almost back, with its beautiful sun, heat and fully-budded trees: the stage is thus set for all-terrain vehicle users who cannot wait to get their four-wheeled babies out of the garage. But before any ATV lover goes for a ride, it might prove useful to review five safety tips that will enhance his or her overall confidence and experience.

1. ATV newbies: take a hands-on course!

Since ATVs often operate on uneven terrains, any rider should be careful at all times to avoid losing control. ATV accidents unfortunately occur in great numbers every year, and many lives could be saved if every ATV rider actually knew of to handle the wheel of this particular kind a vehicle. This is, however, not the case: data show that less than 25% of all new ATV riders do not take a hands-on course.

This fact seriously increases the risk of being involved in an accident. Many organizations and even ATV manufacturers offer practical courses to anyone who is eager to improve his of her riding abilities. If such courses are not compulsory, it does not mean that they should be neglected: it is your physical integrity that is at stake.

2. Buy a helmet… and wear it!

Not liking helmets is not a good reason to escape wearing one. If a helmet is undoubtedly the most important protection device one can wear while driving an ATV, any helmet just won’t do the trick. All riders actually need to have their own personal helmet, for the protective property of a helmet greatly depends on how it fits one’s head.

When shopping for a helmet, you should not base your final choice upon its cost: an expensive helmet is not synonymous with high protection just like a cheaper one does not mean lower quality. Bear in mind that brand, among other things, factors into the final price. You should therefore ask for a professional’s advices and make sure your final choice has a recognized certification such as that of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) or that of the Snell Memorial Foundation.

Remember that helmets don’t last decades: their life span is rarely over 5 years, and they should be replaced every time they suffer an impact. Investing in additional safety devices also is a very good idea. For instance, think of buying goggles to protect your eyes from the rocks and dust you are likely to encounter during a ride. Over-the-ankle boots, gloves, long pants and shirts with long sleeves should equally be considered.

3. Ride your ATV in appropriate settings

ATVs are not designed to be ridden on concrete or on asphalt. They are not designed to rub elbows with cars and trucks either: in the event of a collision involving an automobile and an ATV, the car occupants are much less likely to suffer serious injuries because they are protected by the passenger cell. The ATV rider, however, does not benefit from a protective structure and therefore is much more at risk.

Another reason why an ATV should not be ridden on concrete or asphalt is that when making a turn, the ATV’s inside rear wheel is meant to skid; a paved surface will inhibit this intended skidding and may cause the rider to lose control of the vehicle and may lead to a spill.

4. No passenger allowed!

Most ATVs are designed for a single occupant: their handling is highly dependent on the driver’s body movements. In effect, the driver has to be able to shift his or her weight freely in any direction. Adding a passenger will significantly diminish the effect of the driver’s body movements and increase imbalance.

Is it also necessary to mention the fact that most ATVs are not equipped with passenger handholds or footrests. Therefore, if your ultimate goal is to ride your ATV with someone else, you should definitely consider buying a “Type II” ATV, which is specifically intended for use by a driver and a second occupant.

5. Bring a communication device with you

Anytime you go for a ride, no matter how long or how far you intend it to be, you should not forget to bring some kind of link with the outer world! For instance, if you have a cell phone, always carry it with you: it will add to your overall safety and that of your relatives. Whether is it to call for help or to announce you will be late for dinner because you have decided to prolong your ride, you and those who know you are out will all feel much more secure.

Now that you have reviewed these basic safety tips, the best you can do is put them into practice… and enjoy the ATV season that’s just beginning!

About the author:
Alexandre Duval is a blogger for that offers ATVs for sale. He is also currently completing his master’s degree in political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.