Off-road Vehicle Safety

Driving off-road vehicles, such as ATVs and UTVs, can be an exhilarating experience and a lot of fun, but it can lead to severe injury or even death if the proper safety precautions are not taken. The most common factors that cause off-road vehicle incidents are vehicle speed, drinking or drug use, operator error, operator inexperience, and trail conditions. Injuries commonly occur from rollover crashes, collisions with stationary objects like a tree, and falling off the vehicle.

Tips for riding safely:

  • Take an approved safety course. Approved courses vary by state. A safety course can teach you the rules and how to ride safely and responsibly. First-time riders will learn about important riding techniques and how to avoid hazards.
  • Wear a properly-fitted helmet. Look for a Department of Transportation (DOT) compliant helmet. Also, wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed. Excess speed is a contributing factor to many fatal crashes.
  • Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Just like driving a car, operating an off-road vehicle while impaired can lead to poor judgement and delayed responses causing an accident.
  • Be aware of and enforce manufacturer’s warning labels including minimum age requirements and number of passengers or single rider. NEVER carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.
  • Ride a vehicle that is appropriate for your age and size. Full-size ATVs can weigh more than 600 pounds and can be difficult to handle. Select an ATV designed for your age group, as shown on the manufacturer's warning label on the vehicle. Never allow anyone under 16 years old to operate a full-size ATV.
  • Off-road vehicles are not toys. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to follow these rules for children under 16.
  • Do not ride on paved roads except to cross – only when done safely and permitted by law. Off-road vehicles are designed for off-road use. Paved roads can seriously hamper the machine’s handling ability, causing the driver to easily lose control.
  • Always check the weather and trail conditions before you start your trip to be prepared for what’s ahead. 
  • Stay alert. Be observant and watch for people, animals, and other obstacles in your path, such as rocks, fallen trees, barbed wire fences, and open water.
  • Additional safety practices to following when driving a UTV:
    • Keep legs and arms inside the vehicle at all times. 
    • Drive slowly and turn smoothly when hauling cargo to avoid overturning.
    • Drive completely up or down a slope or hill before making a turn. Do not turn the vehicle mid-slope or on a hill as this increases the probability of overturning.
    • Due to the hauling purpose of a UTV, special attention should be paid to making sure cargo or material is properly secured during transport.
    • Each passenger must ride in his/her own seat, not anywhere else on the UTV.
    • If your UTV has seat belts, use them.