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SafetyEpisode 168

UTV and ATV safety

Matthew Wilde
Jun 5, 2024

UTV and ATV are popular for work and recreation on farms and ranches, but operating off-road vehicles carries some safety risks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported 498 off-road vehicle fatalities in 2023. Nearly 19% of those fatalities were people younger than 16 years old.

Laramie Sandquist, a risk management expert with Nationwide, says UTV and ATV drivers and passengers can reduce accident risk by following safety precautions.

“The resurgence of UTV and ATVs since the pandemic has been huge, and we’ve also seen an increase in accidents,” he says. “Unfortunately, a majority of those are happening on farms and ranches and specifically involving children. Folks need to understand [UTVs and ATVs] are powerful machines that need to be operated safely.”

Safety precautions

Sandquist says rollovers and collisions are the top causes of injuries and deaths for UTV and ATV operators and passengers. He recommends taking the following safety precautions:

  • Wear appropriate clothing and safety gear, including helmets, gloves, long pants and shirts with sleeves.
  • Allow only the approved number of passengers.
  • Wear seatbelts and close any doors.
  • Understand where to ride, ensuring the terrain isn’t too difficult for the operator’s skill level.
  • Use caution when operating off-road vehicle on roads, since the tires are not designed for that use.
  • Ensure off-road vehicles are age-appropriate for operators. High-horsepower machines are not recommended for youth to drive.
  • Don’t operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

3 pillars of safety

Nationwide has established three pillars of off-road vehicle safety for farms and agribusinesses.

  1. What’s legal: Not always safe for UTV/ATV operation. Though specific laws vary by state, many states permit ATV/UTV use on some public roadways if the operator is a licensed driver. “We want to make sure people are educated on how to use these machines safely,” Sandquist says.
  2. What’s smart: The role of common sense with UTV/ATV operation. Smart, safe ATV/UTV operation is a combination of the right safety equipment and know-how, along with responsible operator behavior and common sense. Make a practice of keeping the machines off public roadways whenever possible and travel at safe speeds.
  3. What’s right: Match job, manpower and horsepower. Train every member of your farm or agribusiness workforce before engaging an ATV or UTV. Make sure all operators have the right machines to do their jobs and are prepared to do them responsibly.

Safety resources

Let’s Champion Rider Safety is the Nationwide off-road vehicle safety initiative. The campaign features former NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and provides tips for safe driving and riding.

“Earnhardt does a great job connecting with people of all ages. He talks through risks and how to enjoy these vehicles in a fun, safe manner,” Sandquist says.

Nationwide is partnering with vehicle manufacturers, the ATV Safety Institute and Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association to reinforce safety initiatives. “Manufacturers do a really good job of providing safety training,” he adds, “but sometimes people don’t take advantage of those offerings. We want to make sure everyone is educated on the safe use of these vehicles.”

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