Fatalities from ATV collisions are up. Here’s how to be a smarter off-roader

Published: November 22, 2019

A quad on its side after ATV collisions Photo by Amelia Martin/Shutterstock

With off-road season upon us, the OPP is warning that deaths from ATV collisions are up this year. Here’s why this is happening and what you can do to increase your safety.

The Ontario Provincial Police is reporting that off-road crashes have resulted in 20 fatalities in the province so far this year, up from 17 at this time in 2018. We spoke to Sgt. Dave Moffatt, the off-road vehicle coordinator for the OPP, for some perspective.

“Every time a collision comes across my desk, I see the commonalities,” Moffatt says. “One of them is alcohol.” Eight of the 20 deaths—that’s 40 per cent—involved drinking. “ATVs are hard to ride as is, and alcohol doesn’t help.”

Even more of a factor is helmet use. “We have a slogan,” says Moffatt. “Protect your noggin—it’s the only head you have.” Twelve of the people killed this year were not wearing a helmet. Moffatt advises off-roaders to wear head protection, and to put on the seatbelt, even when they think they’re on safe terrain—tooling around your cottage property, for example.

Other reasons behind ATV collisions: driver inexperience; excessive speed; being unfamiliar with the terrain (40 per cent of fatal ATV collisions happen on private property, not on trails or roads).

Moffatt would like users to remember the V part of ATV: he’s seen horrific ATV collisions where someone has gone off the road and rolled over. “This is a vehicle on top of them,” he says, “and it’s too heavy for them to push it off themselves.”

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Two other commonalities: age (the majority of the fatalities were adults aged 25 to 65) and weather. “It’s a staggering statistic,” Moffatt says. “One hundred per cent of these collisions happened during great weather, clear skies.”

Moffatt advises riders to tell people where they are going and what their plan is, when they expect to be back. He’s seen cases where ATVers head out at night, and by morning, when they haven’t come back, it’s too late.

Finally, he stresses that ATVers have to think of their safety and wear protection. “It takes two seconds to put a helmet on,” he says, and then adds another OPP saying: “Don’t cut your life short for the sport.”

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