You might be the safest ATV driver for miles around, but without proper safety gear, you're never more than one chance flip, roll, collision or low-hanging limb away from a trip to the emergency room. To minimize the risk, both the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the ATV Safety Institute recommend strapping on a few potentially lifesaving accessories.
As with motorcyclists, ATV enthusiasts are generally advised (and, in some places, required by law) to wear a helmet. And no, this doesn't mean that spiked Prussian army helmet you've been eying on eBay. You'll want some protective headgear certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation and/or the Snell Memorial Foundation. (In case you haven't heard of it, the Snell Memorial Foundation is a not-for-profit group that focuses on helmet safety standards. It has been around since 1957.) Should you find yourself thrown from your vehicle or about to make friends with a low-hanging limb, your brain will thank you.
In addition to wearing a helmet, the CSPC recommends gloves, long pants, long sleeves, over-the-ankle boots and a pair of goggles or a face shield to protect the eyes against dust and tire-thrown rocks. A number of additional protective garments, including kneepads, chest protectors and protective suits are also available.
Helmets, the most expensive part of the attire, typically run between$30 and $75, but you can spend hundreds of dollars if you're particularly choosy. As with other ATV safety accessories, you can buy them from ATV dealers and various outdoor stores.
On the next page, we'll look at how AVT safety courses work.