Quad Bike/ATV Safety and the Training of Riders

Quad Bike/ATV Safety TrainingIntroduction

On the Arrive Alive website, we share information on safe driving with a wide range of vehicles and on different terrains. This includes quad bikes/ATV and advice on the need for protective gear and extra caution required when operated by children. It is however also important to recognize the need for safety awareness among workers who are entrusted with these vehicles. 

South Africa has the 10th largest road network in the world with fast rural and farming areas. In these areas, it is often prudent to use quad bikes to move between different locations.

We decided to approach Hein Jonker, Chief Instructor of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of S.A, and gain some insights on a safety strategy for our employers, workers and employees on defensive rider training and awareness.   

We always say that an informed driver is a safer driver - could the same be said of an informed quad bike or ATV rider?

Oh, I think you’ve answered this one in the first half of your question. Any type or form of proper education is a move in the right direction, although some levels of training may even delay the progress or is simply insufficient.

In a motor car the operator is protected by the shell or body of the vehicle, but on a quad bike or ATV the operator, like on a motorcycle, is directly exposed to the environment in which he operates.

Thus, I feel that informing quad bike and ATV operators on the full spectrum of the vehicle is a matter of life and death and should be taken seriously by both the operator and his/her employer.

What are the major differences in the skill required for driving a motor car, a quad bike, an ATV and a motorcycle?

A motor car, quad bike, and ATV all have 4 wheels and therefore do not require a huge sense of balance or hand-eye-foot coordination.

Motorcycles, on the other hand, only have two wheels and thus require a totally different skillset and level of training.

On motorcycles, the rider posture can change from motorcycle type to motorcycle type, but in motor cars, on quad bikes, and on ATVs, the posture is universal.

Four-wheeled vehicles require direct steering; turning the steering wheel or handlebar in the direction you'd like to go, whereas motorcycles mostly require counter-steering.

Body movement, or weight shifting, is another important skill the master when learning to operate a quad bike or ATV.

With these factors mentioned, it should be clear that each vehicle requires its own skillset and operators should obtain these skills, through proper training, on a vehicle-to-vehicle basis.

Before the quad bike / ATV rider gets on the vehicle - what are the most important aspects to know about the quad bike / ATV?

There are three very important safety aspects to consider on a quad bike or ATV, and they are:

  1. Wheel size or profile
  2. Wheelbase
  3. Vehicle width

These three factors are what makes a vehicle stable, or the very opposite.

In the hands of an ignorant fool, the quad bike or ATV will become detrimental to one's health.

In my book, the operator must pursue or have obtained proper training to learn basic maintenance of the vehicle, the suspension dynamics, understand the forces of motion on the quad bike or ATV, and the safe and effective operation of such a vehicle.

Is it fair to say the nature of the protective gear needed will depend on the terrain and the purpose of use? Which are the most important pieces of protective gear?

Sure, there are some differences in the riding gear on quad bikes and ATVs with similarities to that of an off-road motorcycle.

The following standard riding gear should be considered:

  1. Helmet (full-face with visor or goggles)
  2. Jacket (long sleeve vest at least)
  3. Gloves (full finger)
  4. Pants (denim jeans will do)
  5. Boots (over-the-ankle at least)
  6. Body protector in more demanding/extreme conditions

Why would you say there is a need for quad bike rider training of employees on a farm

Why would you say there is a need for quad bike / ATV rider training of employees/riders on a farm, construction site or industrial terrain?

Firstly, I've seen several companies being sued for injury or death to an operator where no official training was provided by the employer.

This, however, should not be the main motivating factor; investing in the skill of an employee has numerous long-term and positive outcomes. An initial small investment in skills development will save the employer a lot more in the long run.

The risk to quad bike or ATV operators is as real, if not more, than any other vehicle operator on the farm, construction site or industrial terrain.

What would you regard as the major contributing factors to quad bike injuries on a farm, construction site or industrial terrain?

Any casualty, be it from a collision or a crash, is directly related to skill, conditions, and vehicle.

Bring these together in a lacking relation to the above factors, and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

  • Skill needs to be learned, through training.
  • Conditions, a dynamic environment, must be anticipated and respected.
  • Vehicle maintenance must be learned, through training.

What are the most important defensive driving techniques for workers to learn?

One can learn basic skills from a friend, family or fellow employee, but defensive techniques can only be learned through proper training conducted by a professional instructor.

Some basic defensive techniques are:

  1. Braking
  2. Turning
  3. Riding through bends
  4. Swerving around obstacles
  5. Riding over obstacles
  6. Risk anticipation

A typical ATV Course consists of the above, and several other important techniques which instil confidence in the operator.

Is it important to place a special focus on driving where the quad bike is used to transport loads or carry a passenger

Is it important to place a special focus on driving where the quad bike / ATV is used to transport loads or carry a passenger?

Certainly. Quad bikes are not recommended for passengers or carrying major loads, especially if the load adds risk to the operator or chances the handling dynamics of the quad bike.

Side-by-side ATVs can accommodate a passenger and a light load in the bin.

You see, when carrying a passenger on a quad bike, the passenger sits directly on or over the rear axle. With the shorter wheelbase, a quad bike is prone to “hopping” and can very easily bump the passenger up and off the vehicle. It is ideal that both rider and passenger seat between the two axles, which adds to the stability of the quad bike or ATV.

Can you give us some insights on how training can be implemented and what would be required in terms of time, equipment and terrain?

We’ve recently conducted ATV training to folks of the SERNICK Group near Kroonstad, and in the past riders from Sappi and Mondi.

We try and keep the groups small and interactive, not more than 5 or 6 riders per day, where two riders are able to share an ATV or quad bike.

These one-day courses are conducted on-site and in an area of about 30 x 60m in size, preferably in their work environment and on their own ATVs or quad bikes. Any off-road area or terrain, with our guidelines, can easily be transformed into a temporary training range.

We bring our cones and other training aids, a solid curriculum, and provide the necessary certification upon a successful assessment at the end of the day.

A typical Course Outline would be:

  1. Protective clothing and equipment
  2. Pre-ride inspections
  3. Controls and starting the engine
  4. Starting out, shifting gears and braking
  5. Turning and weaving
  6. Weight shifting and Counterbalance
  7. Riding strategies
  8. Risk awareness
  9. Riding circles and figure of 8
  10. Quicker turns
  11. Sharp turns
  12. Quick stops and swerves
  13. A quick stop in a turn
  14. Riding over obstacles
  15. U-turn / Traversing hills

Any additional information you believe employers and riders should be aware of?

It’s all about managing risk. Managing risks means being a good decision-maker. Many accidents are caused by poor riding decisions. Riders need to learn to organize safe thought processes and manage risk by using a thinking strategy to help them.

Professional training provides insight into the risks associated with ATV or quad bike operation and ways to manage these risks.

Any additional information you believe employers and riders should be aware of?

Also View:

Quad Bikes / All - Terrain Vehicles and Road Safety

Quad Bike Injuries

ATV'S / Quad Bikes & Children

Motorcycle Safety and ATGATT

Motorbike Safety and Riding Drunk

Motorbike/ Motorcycle Safety and the Young Rider

Motorcycle Insurance and Safety on the Road


Hein Jonker
Chief Instructor

Motorcycle Safety Institute of S.A.

Website: www.msi.org.za
Email: hein@msi.org.za
Phone: 083 7937975

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