In a recent Drovers poll, more than half of nearly 400 respondents said they own both an ATV and an utility vehicle (UTV) and use them in different ways on the farm, mountains, rocky hills or hollers.
As this area of equipment evolves, keep safety in mind. ATVs and UTVs both offer good utility on the farm and off, they can respond differently in times of challenge.
Reports by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report that Memorial Day weekend is the peak time for emergency room visits associated with ATV and UTV usage.
1. Understand all manufacturer’s guidelines and operator instruments.
While modern utility vehicles have similar instruments as other farm machinery, drivers should be familiar with the specific model’s capabilities. Flags, reflectors and lights should be used to make vehicles more visible. Always use seat belts when available.
2. Allow only age appropriate use.
Children are involved in about 30% of all ATV-related deaths and emergency room-treated injuries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Manufacturers of most off-road ATVs and UTVs found on farms suggest operators to be 16-years of age or older, but state laws can vary. All ATV riders should take a hands-on safety training course.
Use the Cultivate Safety tool to help determine what farm tasks are safe for youth of varying ages. And click here to find the laws about ATV use in your state.
3. The number of seat belts equals the number of passengers.
A passenger should ride only in his or her own seat and that person should be tall enough to reach the handholds while sitting properly in the passenger seat. Operators and passengers alike should keep their legs and arms inside the UTV when the vehicle is in motion. Even if your utility vehicle is equipped with a roll bar, remember that the seat belts for you and your passenger must be securely buckled to provide protection in the event of a rollover.
Most ATVs are designed for only one person.
4. Watch what you wear.
All riders should wear helmets, eye protection, sturdy shoes (no flip-flops) and protective, reflective clothing. Appropriate helmets are those designed for motorcycle (not bicycle) use and should include safety visors/face shields for eye protection. Wearing a helmet may prevent or reduce the severity of these injuries.
5. Go slow on rough terrain.
To reduce the risk of an overturn incident, decrease speed when traveling on rough terrain—this lowers the risk of the operator or passenger being thrown from the vehicle. When driving on an incline, remember that driving up or down the slope is safer than driving across. If making a turn on a sloped area, drive completely up the hill or down the hill before making the turn.
6. Secure loads in the cargo bed to prevent them shifting during transportation.
Utility vehicles allow for a wide range of supplies to be transported—from semen tanks, feed, equipment, to pallets of seed. The UTV’s center of gravity is raised when hauling loads in the cargo bed. To reduce the risk of overturning, especially when carrying a heavy load, it is important to drive slowly and smoothly when making turns.
7. Understand street-legal requirements.
While UTVs and ATVs are great on-farm tools, beware of the laws of on-road use.
Also, ATVs lack the common safety equipment found on vehicles that are designed for street use. ATV tires are not designed to grip on pavement, so operators should not ride on paved roads. Parents should never permit nighttime riding or street use of off-road vehicles.
8. Never drink and drive.
As with any type of machinery, never use drugs or alcohol prior to or while operating an ATV or UTV.