The off-road scene has blown up in recent years. It seems like everyone is trying to get their hands on a side-by-side so they can hit the trails with 1000cc and a turbo under their seat. That’s a lot of power. And as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility (thanks, Spider-Man).
If you’re a new rider or are around new riders, it’s important to remember the basics of safe driving. If you’re not doing these things, then you can expect your ride to be plagued with accidents and injuries—the hallmarks of a decidedly un-fun day.
Even if you’re not a brand-new rider, we can all benefit from reviewing the basics every now and then. It can be easy to get caught up in the thrill of a riding weekend and forego the most vital parts of a ride, like helmets and harnesses. So consider this your reminder to always put your safety—and the safety of those around you—first.
Here are our top 5 tips for staying safe behind the wheel of your UTV.
This one should be pretty obvious. Your noggin has got everything in there. You have a case on your phone for just walking down the street, so why not put a case on your cranium to keep all that good stuff safe? Your brain might be a little more important than the blurry pictures saved on your phone.
But seriously, how many people do you see wearing a helmet out at ride parks? Not very many. Maybe you think your roll cage is impervious but that’s certainly not the case. You can smash and deform it under the right circumstances, but the biggest risk is from debris coming into the cab. This can happen during a rollover, from branches, or even from the tires on the car in front of you.
So put a helmet on and quit complaining. And don’t even get us started on the people not wearing helmets on ATVs.
This one’s a no-brainer, too. Luckily we see plenty of people wearing seat belts when they’re out riding, but it’s worth repeating. Seat belts save lives. They even keep you from hurting yourself from bumps on the trail that you want to hit. In a rollover, they keep you in the vehicle instead of slammed into the ground with a nearly 2,000 lb. machine on top of you.
You’ll also want to inspect your belts every once in a while. If they look compromised, you should go ahead and replace them. If you’re planning on getting a little extra rowdy while you ride, you may want to consider upgrading to a 4- or 5-point harness.
Kids are not good drivers generally. They may understand a vehicle’s function and its feel, but do remember how many good snap judgments you made as a ten year old? Or a fifteen year old? Or even a twenty year old? Not many. So why would you let your angsty pre-teen drive an off-road machine on rough roads at 50 MPH?
Did you know that one in four off-road fatalities involve kids under sixteen? And that’s not because one in four riders are under sixteen (that number is closer to one in ten or twenty)—it’s because they don’t yet have the capacity to make good decisions under duress that can protect themselves and others.
Now we know you’re gonna let your kids drive some. That’s part of the fun of growing up with an ATV or UTV. But make sure to give them strict rules and guidelines (like wearing a helmet and seat-belts). Know their limits and their weaknesses and don’t let them push it. You know your kids better than we do, but our advice is to not let them ride the same way you do, and to never let them ride without you.
OK, that’s it for the serious stuff. Thanks for sticking through that. But this is good advice too: don’t ride alone.
It’s great to have some buddies around to help you navigate a particularly tough line. They can also help you stay upright if you start tipping and get you back on your wheels if you manage to lay it out. You just don’t want to be alone when you end up upside down with your doors jammed in sinking mud, à la Jurassic Park sans T-Rex.
Sometimes you go riding with a couple guys that have way more experience than you. They started riding two years before you bought your UTV and they tackle difficult trails almost every weekend.
You, on the other hand, only find time for a trip every six months or so. If that’s the case, don’t do what they do.
Learn from them and stretch yourself, but you can’t go from 0 to 11 without hurting yourself or doing serious damage to your machine. Don’t be afraid to skip that 80-foot jump that requires precision speed and throttle control. And you don’t need to go 60 MPH through that tight, curvy forest trail.
You need to know your vehicle as well. If you’ve got big tractor tires on that thing, you’ll probably have trouble controlling your vehicle on paved roads at high speeds. If you have a 50″ wide vehicle, you might not be able to take that corner at full speed like the guy with the long travel kit can. If you try, you might end up getting dragged out by the Low Talent Recovery Unit.
These are just the fundamentals of safety—the most basic standards. And depending on how you ride, be it mud, dunes, hills, trails, or track, you may have many other factors to worry about as well.
These vehicles aren’t just big, fancy toys, so treat them with all the respect and reverence they deserve. Head over to SuperATV.com to get all the accessories and vehicle protection you need so you can have a long, happy career ripping through those trails.