Playing by the Rules of the (Off)Road

For park and recreation and other districts, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), are an essential part of daily maintenance and operations. ATVs have grown in popularity over the past few decades due to their unique versatility, ease of use, and relatively low price, but that’s only half the story. ATV drivers must operate their vehicles with extra attention to safety. In just the past few years, the Pool has collectively had 8 ATV related injuries, resulting in thousands of dollars in medical bills.

ATVs have been found to be just as dangerous as motorcycles based on mortality and injury rates. The Insurance Information Institute’s statistics show that there were 107,000 injuries associated with ATV use in 2011 alone and nearly 4,000 ATV related fatalities between 2006 and 2011.

Most of the accidents occur due to inadequate safety guidelines. It is important that districts provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for ATV drivers, such as DOT-approved helmets, protective eyewear, gloves, and suitable footwear. Members should enforce rules requiring employees to wear PPE when using district ATVs at all times.

Taking the necessary precautions is the first step to minimizing ATV-related accidents. Members should identify and manage any hazards that could pose a danger to an ATV rider. Potential dangers include environmental hazards such as fallen trees, holes, or uneven ground. They also include structural hazards such as buildings, excavations, trenches, or worksites. Eliminating or clearly marking these hazards should be part of the Best Practices of any district that uses ATVs.

Employee Training for ATV Use

Proper employee training can help avoid accidents altogether. Employees should be trained in proper safety practices and be aware of all safety gear required, trained how to avoid the aforementioned hazards and should be aware of all operational specifics, such as the manufacturer’s guidelines for speed and weight capacity, hauling and towing capacity, and passenger restrictions. Untrained employees should never be allowed to use an ATV. They would almost certainly pose a direct danger to themselves, other employees, guests, district or community property.


Male ATV operators who are over the age of 55 have a much higher fatality rate than other employees. While this definitely doesn’t exclude anyone from using ATVs, it does mean that members and their employees should be aware of the risks before asking at-risk employees to operate an ATV. Employees who take certain prescription medication which affects reaction time should not be allowed to operate ATVs. Districts should never allow an employee who could be under the influence of drugs or alcohol to operate an ATV or any machinery. The Pool offers training on drug and alcohol recognition through our workshops and webinars. This is helpful in identifying employees who may be unfit to use of district vehicles.

The ATV Safety Institute, a division of the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, provides employers with free ATV training resources. Your district can take advantage of these resources and use them to minimize ATV-related incidents. Colorado, along other western states like Montana, Texas and South Dakota, account for nearly one-third of all work-related ATV deaths. Do not let your district be a part of this statistic.

Additional Resources

Remember, if your district has ATVs they should be listed on your Auto Schedule if they are licensed for street use. For additional information, please visit the ATV Safety Institute at

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