Use your head, people!

A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to riding ATVs, bikes and snowmobiles

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A kid riding an ATV.

Some studies indicate that wearing a helmet while operating an ATV reduces the risk of fatal head injuries by 42 per cent, and non-fatal head injuries by 64 per cent. — Brook Evans photo

Must we wait for something to become law before we take the path of safety and respect? People can be awesome and then not so awesome as our image becomes tainted when yet another one of us decides not to use the thinker provided to them at birth. 

Helmets

Not every province or state requires motorsports enthusiasts to wear a helmet. It is a proven fact that helmets absorb the majority of impact in the event of a fall or collision. You don’t have to be going fast to face injury. I get it—freedom, the wind in your hair thing, stick it to the man. But dude, it’s your brain!

Rollovers seem to account for the majority of powersport-related injuries. ATVs, side-by-sides and snowmobiles can all roll, even at low speeds, thus creating a dangerous situation. Riders can lose control or obstacles along a trail can strike an unsuspecting rider and this can cause the perfect storm for head injuries—which are recorded to be the most common injury for enthusiasts.

I’ve been clotheslined, bashed and poked so hard by branches it has sometimes sounded like a gun went off next to my head. Those times, I was glad that I was wearing a lid. Some studies indicate that wearing a helmet while operating an ATV reduces the risk of fatal head injuries by 42 per cent and non-fatal head injuries by 64 per cent.

Helmets can also prevent facial injuries. I like my face and I’m pretty sure my husband likes my face too. I make my children wear full motocross-style helmets to protect their faces. My son Leo is notorious for chipping his teeth. He even managed to chip a tooth in church. You can bet yer babkas he’ll be wearing his helmet always. In our house, wearing a helmet doesn’t have to be law. When riding, the kids wear their helmets, plain and simple. We all do. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Chest protectors

After a Wednesday night ride, a couple of people came to us to ask about our family’s safety equipment. They hadn’t thought about chest protection. I believe that chest protectors, which are often overlooked, are a crucial part of our safety equipment. Even the most harmless of rolls can create a catastrophe of health issues. Broken or bruised ribs take a long time to heal. A broken rib can puncture a lung and other organs are also vulnerable to injury. No, a chest protector isn’t mandatory, but it kind of makes sense.

Ultimately, people know what kind of riders they are. A person who is out for a leisurely cruise along a tame type of trail perhaps would see this as overkill, but for the person out there who is going to be jumping and aggressively riding their machine, perhaps it’s something to think about.

Speed limits

OK, common sense would tell me it is unwise to ride mach chicken past houses, campers, children playing and residential areas. Does there seriously have to be a speed sign posted in every situation to urge people to ride in a responsible manner? Come on, use your thinking caps, people. Not every area will have a speed limit sign—nor should it, in my opinion. We all should have enough common sense to understand what speed is acceptable and not acceptable. 

Common sense would also tell a rider to tap ’er cool when learning how to ride. How many times does ego and peer pressure push a rider into riding at speeds beyond his or her skill level, and then disaster strikes? When riding new terrain, it would only make sense to ride at a moderate speed to get a feel for the new area.  Who knows what is around the next corner, hill or gully. Speed isn’t the answer—using your thinker is.

Tires

Does a law have to be implemented regarding tire tread before people understand what is acceptable impact and not? Many people, myself included, enjoy mudding and along with this comes a more aggressive tire. These tires are great for traction, allowing the operator to proceed in a fairly calm fashion while minimizing spinning and chewing of the ground below. A more aggressive tread also allows the operator to stick to the trail, even the slickest of trails, maintaining one single path instead of several detours around mud holes.

Then there is the person who decides to rip it up, veering off the main trail through sensitive areas leaving behind a wake of ruts. It is not the tire, it is the operator, but many people are villainizing aggressive mud tires. The result, of course, is mudding becoming the next root of all evil. Any mudding becomes wrong and justification for land closures. Of course, this is ridiculous, but at what point does a person use common sense with aggressive mud tires and mudding? I believe it can be done in a responsible manner that is unbelievably fun. Again, if we use common sense, respect and responsibility, we will have years of enjoyment ahead of us. 

Sound

Some call aftermarket exhausts obnoxious and rude, while some call the sound sexy and awesome. There is a fine line and that line becomes blatantly obvious when you decide to crack your throttle next to residential areas, relaxing campers and, well, basically anyone who doesn’t ride. Use common sense and keep the super-loud braaaps to yourself. If this is not possible, opt for a quieter exhaust. I love the added snap of an aftermarket exhaust, but I do not like to wear earplugs when I ride.

My husband had a side dump turbo that was beyond loud. Everyone stink-eyed him if he cracked it going past peeps, but he was pretty good about it and saved the WOT braaap for the times he was away from the eardrums of peaceful people. We don’t need a sound law to dictate our exhaust—we need to, again, use our thinkers. 

Private land

Common sense would dictate that a person would know where they are going to ride before they actually venture forth. You would research all of the potential land closure areas, as well as understand the boundaries of where Crown land turns to private. Even if land is considered Crown, if you go through a gate, close the freakin’ thing behind you. What is this called? Oh yes, common sense. Many people have their livelihood grazing on Crown range land. Respect and common sense would tell us all to close the gate behind us and know exactly where you are at all times to prevent trespassing. 

Littering

Seriously, do I even have to go into this? Pick your crap up and other people’s crap if you come across someone who obviously lacked grey matter. 

These are simply some examples of behaviour that can make or break our sport. It’s up to us, the rider, to take the bull by the horns and encourage common sense. Many a do-gooder is eagerly waiting for the opportunity to shut us down. I happen to think there is enough room for all of us to enjoy life; it just takes a little common sense to keep it going.  


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