Personal safety and comfort are enhanced when you wear protective clothing. Operating without protective clothing increases your chances of severe injury in the event of an incident. Always wear a quality approved motorized vehicle helmet (motorcycle helmet) that fits properly.
Although complete protection is not possible, knowing what to wear and how to wear it can make you more comfortable when you ride.
Dressing Like the Pros
The single most important piece of protective gear you can wear is a quality-approved motorized vehicle helmet (motorcycle helmet). A good helmet can help prevent serious head injuries. Studies have shown that wearing a helmet does not reduce essential vision or hearing. Operating without a quality approved motorized vehicle helmet (motorcycle helmet) increases your chances of severe head injury in the event of an incident.
What to Look for in a Helmet
Standards and Testing
Helmets protect your head in two ways: the outer shell resists penetration and abrasion, and the inner liner absorbs shock by slowly collapsing under impact. Both the shell and the liner essentially self-destruct by spreading the forces of an impact throughout the helmet material. That is why, in most cases, if a helmet has been damaged in an incident, it may be of little protective value in another mishap.
When you purchase a helmet, look for stickers inside or on the outside of the helmet, confirming compliance with the standards from one or both of these agencies: Department of Transportation (DOT), or the Snell Memorial Foundation or equivalent. (There are additional helmet standards now besides these two).
Each manufacturer has established procedures to evaluate helmets for:
- Impact – the shock-absorbing capacity of the helmet
- Penetration – the ability of the helmet to withstand a blow from a sharp object
- Retention – the ability of the chin strap to stay fastened without breaking or stretching
- Peripheral Vision – the helmet must provide a minimum side vision of 120 degrees to each side (Most people’s peripheral vision is between 110 and 115 degrees.)
The Right Helmet for You
While colour, design and price may influence your decision about which helmet to buy, protection should be your first consideration.
The full-face helmet provides the most protection since it covers more of your face. Recent design improvements in shell material and interior ventilation have improved comfort. The next choice in protection is the three-quarter (open-face) helmet. It does not offer the face and chin protection that full-faced helmets do, so if you choose this style, it should be used with mouth/chin protection.
For a helmet to offer the most protection possible it must fit properly. Your helmet should fit snugly but comfortably and be securely fastened.
Always fasten your helmet’s chin strap snugly. A helmet will do you no good if it comes off during a mishap.
The Right Helmet for Youngsters
A helmet is also the most important piece of protective gear for children. Athletic headgear such as hockey, football or skateboard helmets ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE for ATV riding. They do not have adequate energy absorption qualities for use while operating a motorized vehicle.
As with any helmet, a child’s helmet must fit properly to be effective. Do not use an adult-sized helmet that is too large for a youngster. Helmets are available in children’s sizes. Check with your ATV dealer.
Replacing Your Helmet
Plan to replace your helmet if it has been involved in an incident. Some helmet manufacturers will inspect and, when possible, repair a damaged helmet. If your helmet has been dropped, there may be damage that you don’t see; you may want to take advantage of this service.
Most helmet manufacturers recommend that, under normal use, you should replace your helmet every two to four years. If you notice any signs of damage before then, replace it immediately. As mentioned above, helmets may crack or break if dropped.
Why replace a helmet every few years if it does not appear damaged? Its protective qualities may deteriorate over time. The interior padding compresses, offering less protection. The chin strap may fray or loosen at its attaching points and the shell may be chipped or banged. Probably the best reason, however, is the consistent improvement of the design and protective qualities of helmets.
Since 1980, all helmet manufacturers have been required to stamp the month and date of production on the helmet. If you cannot remember when you bought your present helmet, just check the production date. If there is no date at all, you should definitely replace your helmet now.
Follow the manufacturer’s directions on caring for your helmet. Use only the mildest soap recommended.
Avoid any petroleum-based cleaning fluids. Exposure to strong cleaning agents can cause the helmet’s shell and its liners to decompose and lose protective value.
There are many considerations when deciding which helmet to buy. Talk with your local motorcycle and ATV dealer, and consult ATV enthusiast magazines for information to help in your decision.
Being able to see clearly will help you ride more safely. Operating without eye protection can result in an incident and increases your chances of a severe eye injury in the event of an incident. An object such as a rock, branch or even a bug that hits you in the face can distract you; but if you are hit in the eyes, you could be blinded. Regular sunglasses do not provide enough protection when riding an ATV. A face shield or goggles will help protect you.
They should be:
- Free from scratches, bearing the standard marking VESC 8 (or V-8) or z87.1 in one corner, or constructed of a hard-coated polycarbonate.
- Securely fastened.
- Well ventilated to prevent fogging.
- Tinted for riding on bright days, clear for night riding or yellow for overcast days.
Gloves should be of a quality that will help prevent your hands from getting sore, tired or cold, as well as offer protection in the event of a spill. Off-road style gloves, available at motorcycle and ATV dealerships, provide the best combination of protection and comfort. They are padded over the knuckles for added protection.
The minimum protective footwear is a pair of strong, over-the-ankle boots with low heels to help prevent your feet from slipping off the footrests. Off-road style over-the-calf ATV or motorcycle boots offer the best protection for feet, ankles and legs.
It is important to protect your skin from scratches. A long-sleeved shirt or jersey and long pants are minimum requirements for rider protection. Off-road riding gear (such as jersey, shoulder pads/chest protector, and off-road pants with knee and shin pads) provides better protection.