"I've always done it that way"
While many people enjoy the versatility that a quad or All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) brings, others are suffering from life changing injuries and grave consequences. Like any piece of machinery, it's not the quad bike that is dangerous, it's the way it's handled so before you hop on and start up your ATV, learn more about the truth in riding these powerful machines.
ATVs have inherently unstable design features (a narrow-wheel base, short turning radius, high centre of gravity and low tyre pressure) to maximize manoeuvrability. The injuries from these vehicles can often be fatal, because they can achieve high speeds and when an ATV overturns, there is no roll bar to protect the driver's head or neck (as is the case with a tractor or utility vehicle).
There is no one cause of all ATV accidents. However, many of these incidents involve the negligence or recklessness of the driver or another person nearby. Causes of ATV accidents include drunk driving, to speeding recklessly, to unsuitable terrain, to vehicle rollover; the list goes on and on. These accidents are also caused by less obvious reasons, such as poor maintenance or exceeding the carrying capacity on the ATV. ATVs in light agricultural use are designed to hold the operator, and the operator only.
There is no doubting that ATVs can be a real aid on the farm, but if you have an ATV, you are being negligent if you don't at least familiarise yourself with safe driving practices and prevent children (those under 16 years of age) from driving the ATV in any circumstances.
Before starting the task STOP and THINK…
- Ensure only persons authorised and officially trained with the safe operation or those undergoing supervised training are allowed to operate the ATV.
- Have you had the proper training? Why not attend a certified training course? (i.e. EASI ATV Rider Course or LANTRA)
- Do you always wear a helmet? If not, why not? ATVs are not fitted with cabs or roll bars, so your only protection is what you wear.
- Is your ATV adequately maintained? When was the last time you carried out a pre-shift check of the ATV
- Fuel If the ATV has been lying around unused for several months, you should drain the tank and refill with fresh fuel.
- Tyres As well as ensuring your tyres are at the right pressure for the terrain and have good treads, it is always a good idea to check for nails in the sidewall.
- Brakes It may be stating the obvious but being able to stop your ATV is a good safety tip. Brake pads should never be metal to metal. Check pad wear as the pad needs to be at the very minimum, 1/8th inch thick for a light day of riding.
- Oil Check the oil level before each ride. Looking at the fluid on the dipstick can tell you how much oil you’ve got and if it is fit for use or not.
- Steering Be sure to look over the steering connections to the wheels. The tie rods are wearable and if one breaks loose you could be left with just one wheel controlling your fate.
- Grips Having control of your ATV is obviously essential so if the grips are falling apart then replace them.
- Ensure loads on racks are secure, evenly balanced and do not exceed the capacity of the ATV.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Gloves are useful for protection and handlebar muffs can help to keep hands warm in cold weather for good control of the ATV. Wear sturdy, ankle-covering footwear, e.g. boots or wellingtons that are strong, supportive and have good wet grip and high visibility clothing (helps to locate you from the air if you do fall off);
- Riding an ATV requires a lot of body movement so do some warm up stretches to help prevent muscle strain;
- Protect your eyes from insects and branches with either a visor or goggles and always wear a helmet;
- Get to know your own ground and stick to planned routes where possible. Walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions, hollows or other hazards;
- Allow for changes in ground conditions and for the destabilising effect of loads or attachments;
- Keep a look out for pedestrians, livestock, vehicles and other obstructions; and
- Follow the SAFE STOP procedure if you need to check equipment, carry out maintenance work or clear blockages:-
- Fully apply the handbrake
- Put all controls in neutral
- Stop the engine
- Remove the key from the ignition
- Operate an ATV unless you are trained and authorised to do so;
- Make sudden increases in speed. This is a common cause of rearward overturning accidents, even from a standing start on flat ground where there is good grip.
- Put your foot onto the ground to stabilise an ATV when riding, shift your weight across the ATV away from the imbalance.
- Tow a load from anywhere other than the hitch point.
- Use ropes or chains to drag a load; they can become caught on a wheel. This can lead to entanglement with the brake cable, causing unexpected braking.
- Overload the racks.
- Hold a spraying lance or any other equipment while riding your ATV. You need both hands for safe control.
- Drive an ATV when under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Use mobile phones or other hand-held devices while operating or travelling.
- Children under 16 must not drive, operate, or help to operate ATVs.
- It is illegal for ATVs to be driven for work by children under 13. It is also illegal to carry a child as a passenger.
- It is against the law to allow a child under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural self-propelled machines (such as tractors) and certain other farm machinery. The law also requires that employers ensure their risk assessment for young people under the age of 18 takes full account of their inexperience, immaturity and lack of awareness of relevant risks.
- Beware of the potential dangers of accessories which are not approved by manufacturers, e.g. home-made gun racks and boxes. Either use accessories supplied/ approved by manufacturers or seek their advice as to the suitability of those sourced elsewhere.
- Any weight added above the centre of gravity will decrease the ATV’s stability, e.g. feed hoppers/ dispensers fixed above the rear rack.
- Discuss the risks regularly with the whole team, and train everyone in safe working methods, and emergency procedures.
- Make sure everyone carries a mobile phone with them and have the relevant emergency information and emergency contact numbers programmed into them. Keep the mobile phone with you – don’t leave it in the tractor cab.