Safety tips for young riders

The Alberta Snowmobile Association reaches out to a new generation with its Safe Riders! Ride With Respect program

by Lori and Randy Zacaruk

A group of children in a gym with their hands up.
Safety instructor Lori Zacaruk teaches a class of students in Plamondon, Alberta, how to use proper snowmobile hand signals. photo courtesy Lori Zacaruk

The Alberta Snowmobile Association’s (ASA) Safe Riders! Ride With Respect program is back on the road with Zac’s Tracs again this season, and so far, we’ve had many positive reactions.

In the schools we've visited, teachers have agreed that students these days have more access to motorized recreation, and they commend the program as a good use of curriculum time. They also appreciate the amount of interaction and student engagement our high-energy programs provide.

During the 60- to 90-minute programs, we share age-appropriate skills and tips, such as those outlined below.

Stay alert

Safe Riders! encourages young riders to stay alert and constantly scan around when riding. Collisions can result—especially when more than one machine is in motion—since kids, and even adults, can get so focused on their own activities that they lose track of each other.

Use hand signals

We also introduce students to basic snowmobile hand signals and they are encouraged to use them with other riders and the adults supervising them. Hand signals help us warn each other of danger and manage our group on and off the trails.

Wear a helmet and buckle up

Side-by-sides are becoming highly popular. These vehicles carry their weight much higher and are easier to tip over than quads. They can travel very quickly and are often carrying more persons than recommended. Those not wearing their seatbelts can easily be thrown from the vehicle and risk being crushed. We remind students to use helmets, buckle up and keep their arms and legs tucked in the vehicle at all times.

Learn from examples

Rather than simply preaching rules to our audiences, the Safe Riders! activities focus on why the rules and guidelines are important and are to be followed. Videos and personal stories highlight how most accidents are a result of a string of bad decisions or conditions.

Think safety first

Whether we think about it or not, most of the decisions we make are based on some form of cost or benefit analysis. The problem is many of these benefits are often short term in nature (having fun, winning the race and getting to the destination on time) while the consequences of an ATV or snowmobile accident are often more serious and longer term in nature.

The ASA’s snowmobile and off-road vehicle safe riding program is available free of charge to Alberta schools and community groups. If you think this program would be valuable for youth in your community, contact Dawn at 403-804-3886. 

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