All-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Quad bikes and side-by-side utility vehicles

ATVs such as quad bikes and side-by-side utility vehicles are designed to cope with a wide variety of off-road conditions, but if used carelessly can very rapidly become unstable.

Quad bike ATVs

Many quad bike fatalities in the UK have been caused by head injuries. Helmets would have prevented most, if not all, of these deaths. You should always wear a suitable helmet when riding a quad bike.

The long seat on a quad bike allows operators to shift their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions, a technique known as 'active' riding. It is not for carrying passengers.

To help reduce the risks:

  • carry out safety checks and maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, eg regularly check tyre pressures, brakes and throttle;
  • secure loads on racks and make sure they are not over loaded and evenly balanced;
  • always read and follow the owner's manual;
  • stick to planned routes, where possible, and walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions, hollows or other hazards;
  • take extra care with trailed or mounted equipment and understand how they affect stability;
  • make sure all riders receive adequate training.

Never carry a child as a passenger; it is illegal and will reduce your ability to control the ATV. Children under 13 years old are prohibited from using an ATV at work. Over-13s should only ride ATVs – of an appropriate size and power – after formal training on a low-power ATV. 

Example of a sit-astride ATV:

Sit astride ATV

Any vehicle designed to travel on four low pressure tyres on unpaved surfaces, with a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and with handlebars for steering control. These vehicles are intended to be used by a single operator without a passenger. May also be referred to as Quad bikes.

  • Always wear suitable head protection
  • Don't overload racks
  • Check tyre pressures regularly

Side-by-side utility ATVs

These vehicles have conventional sit-in seats with a steering wheel and pedals.  They may have a second row of seats and usually have a rear cargo deck or bed allowing goods to be carried.  Although the driver does not need to use active riding techniques to ensure stability the correct distribution of weight is still important.

To help reduce the risks follow the general guidance for quad bikes stated above but also:

  • Always select a machine fitted with a Roll Over Protective Structure (ROPS).
  • In addition to ROPS, the driver and passengers should wear lap belts/seat restraints to prevent them being thrown out in the event of an accident or overturn.
  • The legal requirements for training are the same as for Quad bikes.

For more detailed guidance see Safe Use of ATVs in agriculture and forestry AIS33

Example of a side by side ATV:

Side by side ATV

Small utility vehicles in which the driver and passenger sit alongside each other in conventional (ie. sit-in) seats. Most side-by-side vehicles are capable of carrying two occupants in this way; however, some vehicles are equipped with a second row of seating.

  • ROPS fitted
  • Lap belts / seat restraints fitted
  • Dont overload cargo bed

Is this page useful?