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ORVing the right way

Correct gear will improve safety, riding experience

April 29, 2011
By DANIELLE PEMBLE - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE -The spring season has finally arrived and the open trails are calling your name. But before you hit the mud on your off-road vehicle, there are some important safety tips you should think about. After all, ORVs are not toys, and can cause serious injury from improper use.

In Michigan, ORV is an all-encompassing term defined as any motor vehicle that can be operated cross-country without benefit of a road or trail over land, snow, and other natural terrain. The most popular ORVs are all-terrain vehicles, such as four-wheelers, off-road motorcycles and multipurpose utility vehicles.

It is mandatory for children 16 years of age and younger to take a safety course, but riders of all ages should take the time to educate themselves.

Article Photos

Dan Woodruff of Marquette Powersports shows an example of a half helmet that can be worn with goggles. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)

If you have never taken an ORV safety course, now's the time to consider it. Dale Ollila, licensed ATV safety instructor, of Harvey, highly recommends everyone take a safety course, not just children.

"Actually, I mostly teach senior citizens," said Ollila.

Ollila is a nationally licensed instructor through the ATV Safety Institute, and teaches classes locally. The ATV safety institute courses are structured with some classroom work as wells as hands-on training.

If you have recently purchased an ORV, the class fee may be included with your purchase. Otherwise the ATV Safety Institute course will cost you $150.

Visit the ATV Safety Institute website at for more information as well as tips and an online quiz to test your current knowledge.

ORV safety education classes are also administered by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and are more affordable for those who haven't recently purchased a new ORV.

If you are interested in registering for a class, there are a few coming up as soon as May for around $25. Visit the DNR website at to search for local classes.

The Michigan Handbook of Off-Road Vehicle Laws has plenty of tips and tricks for a good ride, such as:

- Always wear protective gear and clothing. The most important piece of gear is an ORV helmet to prevent serious head injury. You can either wear a full-face helmet or an open-face helmet with goggles. Gloves, above-ankle boots and long pants and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket are also important for protection from flying rocks and debris and tree branches. Optional gear includes kneepads, chest and shoulder protectors. Clothing should fit snugly so it doesn't snag on your vehicle, twigs or branches.

- Make sure you know your vehicle, and that it is in top working order. Different types of ORVs have different handling characteristics, said Dan Woodruff, ATV quad-racer and employee at Marquette Powersports. For example, you need to know the correct braking techniques for your vehicle. "It's important to know your machine and what it's capable of so you're not over-riding it," said Woodruff.

- Inspect your ORV before you ride. Check your tire pressure and consult your owner's manual for items that may need to be lubricated, tightened, adjusted, aligned or checked for wear. Keep up with regular maintenance.

- Obey trail markers and closure signs. There are many reasons why an area may be closed to ORVs including the existence of fire hazard, refuge to wildlife or plant life and safety hazards for ORV riders. The reasons may not be obvious. If it is posted as closed, stay out.

- Be prepared! Bring a map and compass. Carry a first aid kit, emergency food and water and a mobile phone.

Danielle Pemble can be reached at 906-228-2500.



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