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ATV Safety

Randy Taylor

Extension Assistant Agricultural Engineering

A. P. “Pat” Lewis

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheets are also available on our website at: http://www.osuextra.com

Extension 4-H & Safety Specialist, Agricultural Engineering

Farm use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) has increased dramatically in the last few years. ATVs were originally designed for recreation. However, the mobility of ATVs and recent devel- opment of racks, PTOs, and drawbars, make them a useful tool on the farm. Though equipped for work, ATVs do not lose their recreational appeal.

Most ATV users, whether riding for work or pleasure, have little or no formal riding training and tend to think of ATVs as toys. On the contrary, ATVs are “rider active” vehicles, which means riders must master basic riding skills in order to ride them safely. When given the proper respect, ATVs can be a valuable work tool and provide considerable entertainment. Misuse however, can lead to serious injury or even death.


A well-equipped ATV rider always wears proper clothing, including gloves, boots, long pants, and a long sleeved shirt (Figure 1). Gloves prevent fatigue from vibration, scratches from brush, and protection from cold weather. Off-road type gloves, which have padding over the knuckles, offer the most protection.

Boots that rise above the ankles offer the most protection and support for ATV riders. Boots should have heels to prevent your feet from slipping off the footrests. Cowboy boots are better than tennis shoes, but lace-up work boots or motorcycle racing boots are the best footwear.


To insure safety, a rider should take several precautions before attempting to ride an ATV. First, read the owner’s manual and become familiar with the ATV. Second, make a pre-ride inspection of the machine. Third, wear proper clothing and safety gear. Know basic safety rules and riding skills. Practice riding skills in an open area free of obstructions.

Long pants and long sleeved shirts prevent scatches from brush. Serious riders should wear off-road racing gear that has padded areas at the knees, elbows, and shoulders.

Pre-Ride Inspection

A pre-ride inspection insures that everything on the ma- chine is adjusted and working properly to prevent a breakdown or even an accident. In a pre-ride inspection check tires and wheels, controls, lights and switches, oil and fuel, chain or drive shaft, and chassis. A general preride checklist is provided in this publication, but riders should refer to the owner’s manual for a more detailed checklist for their machine. ATVs should always be equipped with a complete tool kit supplied by the manufac- turer.

Helmets and Eye Protection

Figure 1. A well equipped ATV rider.

Safety gear is a must for the ATV rider; the most important piece of safety equipment is the helmet. A rider should always wear a helmet that meets or exceeds safety standards. Pur- chase a helmet that is approved and marked by either the Department of Transportation (DOT), the American National Standards Institute, or the Snell Memorial Foundation. A helmet should fit snugly and always be securely fastened.

Riders should wear safety goggles to protect eyes when- ever a helmet is not equipped with an appropriate face shield. Sunglasses are not safety goggles and do not provide adequate eye protection.

Basic Safety Rules

Once a rider has completed a pre-ride inspection and selected proper safety gear and clothing, there are some basic safety rules he or she should know and follow. These include keeping your feet on the footrests, riding single, and riding off-road only. Footrests are located just in front of the rear tires and putting a foot on the ground while riding could easily result in running over a foot or even pulling the rider from the machine. Because an ATV does not turn in the same manner as a motorcycle, a rider does not need to put a foot down while turning.

Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources • Oklahoma State University

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