Because they fall outside federal highway safety regulations, ATVs and UTVs are regulated by each state. As such, a patchwork of regulations exists across the United States, with states setting varying standards for required safety equipment, operator licensing, the number of allowed passengers, and the minimum age of the driver. The National Council of State Legislators’ website (www.ncsl.org) provides each state’s regulations for ATV/UTV operation.
Just an “oh-by-the-way” – not all states regulate ATV operation, but most do, so learn your state’s regs before you start out riding, especially if you are 16 or younger.
While not regulated except for helmet use, safety equipment should be the first accessories you purchase for your ATV/UTV. Just FYI: I’m not talking safety gear for the vehicle, I’m talking safety equipment for you!
For nearly all outdoor activities, proper equipment and clothing add to the experience. Skiers wear apparel designed for protection against the elements, flexibility of movement and style. Fly fishers wear waterproof boots and waders to give them freedom to move into a stream. Each activity has its own special requirements. ATV riding is no different.
ATV riding requires protection for head, eyes, hands, and feet against occasional spills, flying debris or contact with foliage. The same gear makes riding more comfortable with less fatigue.
Even though it may be 100 degrees outside and all that gear can be heavy and uncomfortable, that’s no excuse for not wearing it. All it takes is one trip to the ground and you’ll appreciate the protection you get by wearing the right ATV safety equipment including a helmet, goggles, gloves, boots, and long pants/shirt.
The most basic piece of ATV safety equipment is protection for the most vulnerable part of your anatomy: your head. An injury to your head is much more likely if you fall off an ATV while not wearing a helmet. While it is not required by law in all states to wear a helmet while riding an ATV, it is strongly encouraged. Let me go a step further. Not wearing a helmet is pretty stupid.
There are good reasons you should wear gloves while you ride. Gloves are a key piece of ATV safety equipment. They protect your hands from flying gravel and rocks, or if a branch from a tree or bush you pass too closely by, and gloves help prevent your hands from getting too sore or callused. They also absorb a lot of vibration that transmits through the handlebars, making it more comfortable (and safe) to ride.
Having the right ATV safety equipment means dressing from head to toe. Boots give your feet better grip and better support while you ride. They absorb shock and give you protection in a crash and from heat that comes off the motor right near your legs and feet.
If you get something in your eyes while you’re riding your ATV, it’s going to bring your trip to an abrupt ending. Eye protection is a must when it comes to ATV safety equipment for just about any type of motorsport, but especially something off-road and in groups where debris is almost always flying around. They work much better than sunglasses because they are strapped to the helmet and because they keep out dust and debris from the sides.
A good chest protector is often over-looked as a piece of ATV safety equipment. Body armor can help protect your upper torso from larger rocks that might hit you. But more importantly, it will help protect you in case you are in an accident where the ATV lands on top of you. It can help protect your chest from getting crushed or punctured.
Long Sleeve Shirt/Pants
Having long pants and a long sleeve shirt on can be very uncomfortable, but it provides a great service as well by protecting your skin from scrapes cuts and abrasions. As with gloves, boots and goggles, long pants and shirts can protect you from branches and brush scraping you, as well as from gravel if you fall of and slide on the ground.
ATV safety equipment doesn’t always have to protect you in a crash; it can also protect you from the sun, wind and elements.
Wearing correct safety gear will help ensure your ride is not only safe, but way more comfortable than you ever thought possible.