Side-by-Side vehicles (SxSs) like ROVs and UTVs, with their larger, sturdier structures and car-like features, are outstripping ATVs in popularity. However, a larger size and sturdy build may fool you into thinking that these vehicles are safer to operate. While this is mostly true, there are some caveats for safe operation that are particular to this type of recreational off-road vehicle.
Although UTVowners don’t need DOT-approved safety gear, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important to dress for the occasion. Drivers and passengers should wear boots or hard-soled shoes that cover their ankles, long sleeve-sleeved shirts, long pants and goggles. Helmets are also an important piece of safety equipment due to the possibility of head trauma when you hit bumps. Any experienced off-roader can tell you that it’s possible to hit your head pretty hard even if you’re strapped-in to a safety belt.
Proper safety equipment is important in any type of vehicle. Off-road vehicle manufacturers and accessory companies make safety gear like Polaris mirrors and other parts that make it easy to keep your eyes on what you’re doing at all times. The right equipment, including seat belts and cages, will also help keep you safer if you do crash.
Off-road means off the road, period. The tires on SxSs and other off-road vehicles are designed for unpaved roads. They have a lower tire pressure, which means that they can become unstable and difficult to control on unsuitable surfaces. This includes unmarked trails as well. It should also be noted that failure to keep to marked trails or unsafe operation can also cause recreational areas to be closed to other off-roaders. Don’t be that guy.
Age and Size Restrictions
All vehicles have an owner’s manual that contains specifications about maintenance and other issues. Side-by-Side vehicles also contain information about minimum operation age and size restrictions. Even if you can fit in an SxS that’s made for people under the age of 16, that doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Exceeding size or weigh requirements can lead to roll-overs and difficult handling. It goes without saying that children of any age should be supervised whether they’re passengers or drivers.
Your owner’s manual should also have specifications for the type of accessories, load size and attachments that are compatible with your SxS vehicle. Failure to follow these guidelines not only makes them more hazardous to drive, exceeding load recommendations or using the wrong attachments can also put undue wear on the engine, transmission and chassis.
You can check with the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) to learn about other important guidelines and recommendation for safe SxS vehicle operation. They’re a great resource for all ATV, UTV, ROV and SxS-related news about vehicle safety and driver training. If you’re serious about the off-road culture, you can also join Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA) and the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC).
Other than these specific recommendations, it’s important to use common sense. That includes not driving drunk or high, exceeding a reasonable speed or riding with your arms and legs hanging out of the vehicle. Following basic safety guidelines isn’t going to take away from the pleasure of off-roading. In fact, it will ensure that you and any passengers live to ride another day.