Off-road vehicles are fun to own and drive. A person can explore new places and try new things when they have access to one of these vehicles. However, they can also be seriously hurt or killed if they don’t use them properly.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 1,513 people lost their lives in an ATV accident in 2022, while 49 people lost their lives in a UTV accident the same year. Tens of thousands of people end up in emergency rooms each year for injuries associated with these vehicles as well. How can a person avoid injuries or worse while using an off-road vehicle?
Invest in Safety Equipment
Every person operating an off-road vehicle should ensure they have safety equipment on hand to reduce the risk of injuries or death while riding. Carry a fire extinguisher on every trip to put out any fires following an accident. Not only does it protect the rider and reduce damage to the vehicle, but the fire extinguisher also helps to minimize damage to the surrounding landscape.
A tire repair kit, spare belts, and a winch and recovery gear should be carried on every ride, even those that won’t take a person out into the wilderness. A person can never be too careful when operating one of these machines. It also never hurts to invest in safety equipment for the vehicle itself, such as an rzr rollcage, if the vehicle does not come outfitted with one.
Never Operate an Off-Road Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs
Drugs and alcohol reduce a person’s reaction time while impairing their judgment. Avoiding their use drastically reduces the risk of an accident and injuries or fatalities. As these vehicles don’t offer the same level of protection that a passenger vehicle does, a person should abstain completely, as any drug or alcohol use is too much.
Reduce Speed When It is Dark Outside
Many people, particularly hunters, choose to use UTVs and ATVs outside of daylight hours. When doing so, the driver must ensure they don’t overdrive the headlights. The headlights on UTVs and ATVs only illuminate approximately 200 feet of the terrain in their path. It will take approximately 180 feet to stop completely when driving at 30 mph.
This figure differs from the stopping time for a passenger vehicle, and drivers must recognize this. In addition, they need to take into account the thinking distance. Braking distance isn’t the only consideration.
Headlights need to be clean and in good working order. Drivers should only travel in areas they are familiar with when riding after dark. They also need to be wearing reflective apparel so others see them in low-light conditions, and a flare or flashlight should be readily available to signal others in the event of an emergency.
Keep Eyes on the Road
The driver must always keep their eyes on the terrain in front of them. Thinking distance comes into play even during daylight hours. Avoid talking on the phone or texting and leave the radio on one station. Thankfully, Bluetooth speakers are now available for these vehicles and can be operated using the voice command feature on a phone. A person doesn’t need to take their hands off the wheel for any reason thanks to devices such as this.
Keep All Body Parts in the Vehicle
Never allow the arms or legs to hang out of the vehicle. A person may not realize how much damage can be done to a limb by a hanging tree branch or other natural feature in the landscape when they are going 30 mph and come into contact with one of these features. Always wear a seatbelt, use a handhold, and keep your eyes on the road. Passengers should also keep their eyes on the road to alert drivers to dangers they may unintentionally miss.
Never Ride Alone
Many things can go wrong when a person is riding an off-road vehicle. Having someone there to assist and call for help can mean the difference between life and death in some situations. The passenger is also of help if the vehicle gets stuck or has a mechanical failure. If a driver must go out alone, they need to have a way to call for help. In addition, they should provide one or more people with a paper outlining where they plan to go, how long they expect to be gone, and other important details.
Practice Trail Etiquette
There are times when riders have to share trails with others. Knowing how to act in these situations is important. Always alert other drivers when passing and slow down when another driver is passing you. Stay to the right to reduce the risk of having an accident with a rider coming the other way.
Never venture into new territory simply because there are visible tracks. Another rider may have made these tracks, so there is no way of knowing if the terrain is safe for an off-road vehicle. Never stop beside another rider on a trail, particularly in a corner or another area where riders may not see you. The same holds at the crest of a hill. Pull off the trail if you need to meet someone side-by-side.
Maintain the Vehicle
A vehicle that is not properly maintained is a danger not only to the driver and passengers of that vehicle but to others in the vicinity. Always inspect the vehicle before heading out to make sure the tires are at the correct pressure, fuel is in the tank, and nothing is obviously broken or damaged. Maintaining the vehicle will also help to improve its performance, which everyone is sure to love when going off-roading.
The most important thing a person can do when it comes to their UTV or ATV, however, is to read the owner’s manual. This manual contains information that is extremely important to the vehicle’s safe operation. In addition, other safety tips may be found in this guide. If the manual cannot be located online, contact the manufacturer for more help. Safety must always be the top priority when riding an ATV or UTV. Otherwise, those taking part in the adventure might find it is their last one.