Use your head and protect it while driving ATVs

Before hitting the trail, you want to Be Prepared. And if you’re driving an off-road vehicle (ORV), part of being prepared is wearing a helmet.

A properly fit off-road vehicle helmet is your most critical piece of safety gear, according to Polaris Industries, the official ATV provider of the Boy Scouts of America. In 2014, the BSA partnered with Polaris Industries to create opportunities for Scouts to ride off-road vehicles. Thousands of Scouts have taken ATV safety training as well as trail-building and conservation courses at Scout camps across the country.

Scouts and Venturers age 14 and older may drive ATV equipment only at council-run ATV programs after receiving safety instruction from an institute-trained instructor. Trained instructors can be found at select camps, where Polaris annually donates ATVs to provide ASI Safety Training and off-road adventures.

To safely enjoy those adventures, riders should wear proper clothing and equipment. Helmets shield your head from debris flung up by tires of riders ahead of you on the trail or from your own tires. It can lessen the impact if you accidentally hit an overhanging tree branch or if you crash or fall off your vehicle. An accident can happen anywhere and to anyone.

A certified helmet will not only protect you, ensuring your trip remains safe and fun, but wearing one is the law. You’ll know if a helmet is certified by a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standard stamp. Other certifications include the SNELL rating and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) safety rating. Some helmets are stamped with multiple ratings.

Always buy a new helmet rather than a used one. Although you can save money, it can be difficult to tell if a helmet has sustained damage at some point, compromising its protective performance.

The right fit

A poorly fitted helmet won’t provide the best protection. You’ll want the helmet to fit snugly on your head, and not shift when you move your head. You shouldn’t be able to easily squeeze a finger between the helmet and your forehead. Wiggling the helmet with your hands should wiggle your cheeks as well. Measure your head at its widest point to get an idea of what size you’ll need. There aren’t any gender-specific fitting issues with helmets — the important part is the fit.

Choosing a helmet will depend on how you’ll be driving. There are full-face helmets, which is the best option as it extends in front of your mouth and chin, offering more protection. In addition to picking the right helmet, you’ll also want to wear the right clothing. When operating an ATV, you should wear eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.

Polaris is a member of the ATV Safety Institute and strongly encourages the institute’s “Golden Rules“:

  • Always wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law.
  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV.
  • Ride an ATV that’s right for your age.
  • Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed. Follow speed limits and trail conditions for which they are meant to operate.

More tips

For more ATV safety tips, check out these resources:

BSA safety moment on ATVs

BSA ATV safety program

ATV safety rules

Polaris Ride Safe program tips

Keep an eye out for photo contest later this year, sponsored by Polaris, where Scouts can share a photo of their wild helmet hair. Check out these tips for taking care of and cleaning your helmet.

About Michael Freeman 254 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.