As the popularity of UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles) continues to rise across the United States, so do the number of accidents involving these off-road vehicles. Outdoor enthusiasts, farmers, and even law enforcement agencies prefer UTVs for their versatility and ruggedness. However, with this increased usage comes an increased risk of accidents. At UTV Law, we commit to promoting safety and providing the necessary legal support for accident victims. In this blog post, we will delve into the top five causes of UTV accidents in the United States to raise awareness and encourage responsible UTV use.
High Speed and Risky Maneuvers
Many UTV riders underestimate the risks associated with driving at high speeds off-road. Other UTV riders push the limits beyond the capacity of the UTV or beyond the ability of the driver. Still, other UTV riders take risks without ensuring the risky maneuver can be made safely.
Designed for rough terrains and uneven surfaces, driving UTVs too fast can result in the loss of control, rollovers, and collisions with obstacles and even other vehicles. It is crucial for UTV operators to adhere to safe speeds and adjust their driving based on their experience as well as terrain and conditions.
We handled a case where a driver of a UTV at Glamis launched at the top of Oldsmobile Hill and landed on another UTV killing the driver of the impacted UTV and severely injuring three children who were passengers. Both UTV drivers were at least partially at fault. We successfully pursued claims against both drivers for their percentage of fault, thus providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the family of the deceased driver, as well as to the minor children who were injured in the accident.
The driver of the launching vehicle needed to have a “spotter” – someone who could warn him of impending danger and to stop the launch. The driver of the impacted vehicle knew he was riding in an area where vehicles commonly launched. He had plenty of room to ride on the back side of the bowl, rather than down in the bowl where launching vehicles commonly landed. It was a very busy day and many vehicles were launching.
The lesson to learn: take every action to avoid causing a collision. Ride within a safe speed and ride under control.
Inadequate Training and Experience
Operating a UTV requires specific skills and knowledge, especially when navigating challenging off-road environments. Unfortunately, many UTV operators lack proper training and experience which can cause UTV accidents. Some may assume that UTVs are similar to regular automobiles, but they have distinct handling characteristics and limitations. Without the necessary training, riders are more likely to make riding errors that can ultimately lead to accidents. We strongly encourage all UTV enthusiasts to complete a training course, ensuring they are well-prepared for off-road adventures.
We were able to collect $2,000,000.00 for a client whose hand was severely damaged as a passenger of a UTV when the driver of the UTV attempted to “drift” in a desert area where there were many ruts. While drifting, the UTV hit a rut, rolled onto the passenger side, and slid (with the passenger’s hand pinned under the roll bar while sliding). The driver knew or should have known that drifting in such adverse conditions was dangerous.
Alcohol and Substance Use
Consuming alcohol and drugs before or during UTV operation is a dangerous practice that contributes significantly to accidents. Impaired judgment, decreased coordination, and slower reaction times can turn a routine UTV ride into a life-threatening situation. UTV operators should never drink alcohol or partake of substances that impair their ability to drive safely. They should be aware of the legal consequences associated with driving under the influence.
After a fight, we forced an insurance company to pay its $500,000.00 policy limit to our client who was a passenger in a UTV. The UTV was a birthday present to our client’s friend. It was the friend’s birthday party and there was a lot of drinking going on. One of the people at the party who was intoxicated, packed the UtV with several people and began doing doughnuts in the backyard. The UTV tipped onto the passenger side and pinned our client’s elbow underneath the roll bar. Our client required emergency surgery to his elbow.
Lack of Safety Gear
Proper safety gear is essential when riding a UTV. Helmets, seatbelts, gloves, and protective clothing can greatly reduce the risk of injury in the event of a UTV accident. Yet, many riders neglect to wear the necessary safety essentials, putting themselves at risk. UTV Law advocates for the use of appropriate safety gear on every ride, regardless of the terrain or distance traveled.
In the Glamis “launching” case discussed above, the driver of the impacted vehicle was not wearing a helmet. He died from closed-head injuries. We will never know if he would have survived if he had worn a helmet. He left three children. Please wear protective gear for the sake of your loved-ones.
Insufficient Vehicle Maintenance
Neglecting UTV maintenance can lead to mechanical failures that result in accidents. Performing routine inspections and maintenance checks to ensure that brakes, steering, tires, and other critical components are in optimal condition. A well-maintained UTV is less likely to experience unexpected breakdowns or malfunctions that could cause accidents. Owners should follow the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines and promptly address any issues that arise.
UTVs are fantastic vehicles for outdoor exploration and work, but they come with inherent risks. Understanding and addressing the top causes of UTV accidents is crucial to reducing their occurrence and promoting safe UTV use across the United States. At UTV Law, we commit to providing accident victims with the legal support they deserve and to raising awareness about UTV safety. Together, we can work towards a future where UTV accidents are a rarity rather than a common occurrence.