Mike Prud’homme has heard all the excuses:
“I’m not going very far.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“Nothing is going to happen.”
The Canada Safety Council’s national co-ordinator for off-road vehicles says operators must treat these machines like motorized vehicles with all the inherent dangers.
“Stuff happens very fast,” he said, noting how distractions such as checking a text can result in straying into a ditch.
Prud’homme said children are at particular risk.
Young riders do not react quickly enough or are not strong enough to manoeuvre all-terrain vehicles with as much as 1,000 cc of power.
Prud’homme said these machines would be too heavy for children to push away if they were trapped underneath one.
The four-wheeled ATVs offer greater stability than the three-wheeled vehicles that were banned in the 1980s but are still found in rural communities.
Dangers extend to the increasingly popular utility vehicles such as Gators, which are used extensively on farms to do chores and move between fields.
UTV sales have increased as ATV sales have declined.
Prud’homme said UTVs give people a false sense of security.
“Just because there’s a roll bar doesn’t mean they won’t get hurt,” he said, citing injuries resulting from the head hitting the roll bar on rough terrain.
“It doesn’t take much to knock your noggin around,” he said.
Prud’homme recommended safety practices such as the use of helmets, riding with a group and under adult supervision, limiting single seat vehicles to only one rider and training all riders and their families.
The internet is a good starting place for information, but it cannot replace hands-on training for families provided by groups such as the council, he said.
“Training everyone makes them aware of the rules and how easily they can get hurt on these things,” Prud’homme said.
“A lot say they can drive, but are they doing it safely?” he said.
Purebred cattle producer Julie-Anne Howe said education is a good option, but she isn’t sure legislation regarding helmet use and regulations would be helpful because of the logistics of enforcing the rules on farms.
She and her husband, Kelly, use a UTV to transport gear and do farm chores on their operation near Moose Jaw, Sask.
They had a friend die in a quad rollover and know of others who have had close calls, so safety is important to them.
“We try to minimize some of the things that could happen,” said Howe, who straps her school-aged children into seatbelts and car seats.
The children come along when the family is moving cattle or checking pivots but not when doing tasks such pregnancy checking livestock.
- Train up. Children should take a proper course with a qualified instructor before they’re allowed to operate an ATV. The Canada Safety Council has courses for children as young as six.
- Ride the right size. It is critical that children younger than 16 not ride adult-sized machines. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and limit six- to 11-year-old children to ATVs that are 70 cc or smaller. Twelve to 15 year olds should ride ATVs no larger than 70 to 90 cc. Children younger than six should not ride ATVs.
- Suit up. Wear a helmet, eye protection, long pants, long sleeves and gloves for every ride.
- No doubling. Most ATVs are not meant for taking passengers. Do not attach passenger seats to an ATV.
- Ride by day. Low light and reduced visibility will increase the chances of a mishap, even on familiar terrain.
Also in this Special Report:
- Keeping kids safe on the farm
- Match work to ability
- Teaching safety to youth
- Identifying hazards minimizes liability