Not to long ago I expressed my apprehensions on excessive speeding in environments that were meant for trail riding. While speeding on public trails still remains a pressing safety concern, other tendencies are becoming more apparent as the sport continues to evolve. Basically the most simplistic safety practices are being overlooked and/or ignored by UTV enthusiasts.
The non-respect for basic safety is not due to shortage of information on the subject. Everywhere you look, especially in off-roading, everyone is promoting rider safety. Take the slogan “SAFETY FIRST” for instance, highly publicized, however still not practiced by the masses.
I believe that part of the problem stems from the false sense of security a UTV seems to provide. What do I mean by “false sense of security”? When seated in a UTV, you are immediately overwhelmed with the sensation that you can concur anything. You grip the steering wheel and start to notice that you are totally enclosed by a roll cage; seat belts are at your disposal and that you are protected by doors and/or side nets. Your grin and invulnerability sets in, hence the false sense of security. A UTV on its own will NOT protect you unless you are safety conscious and still wear protective gear!
True, a roll-cage does offer some form of protection, but this does not justify not wearing a helmet. I am still astonished by the number of riders I cross who don’t wear helmets, or worse, have the helmet sitting next to them on the passenger seat. There are such an excellent variety of helmets on the market today that there is no viable excuse not to wear them.
Also another interesting fact, did you know that seat belts only work if you wear them? Seriously, always wear your seat belts and force your passengers to do the same. If you find the stock seat belts uncomfortable, upgrade them to a set of after-market 4-point harness. Besides the added safety and comfort, the 4-point harness will also firmly secure you in your seat giving you better control of your unit when riding on harsh trail environments.
Another “faux-pas”: don’t ride wearing sunglasses! Sunglasses will not protect your eyes if you are hit by a branch or worse by a rock kicked up by the vehicle and coming at you like a projectile. Always wear goggles or protective eyewear designed for off-roading.
Always ride wearing gloves and ankle high boots. You just never know what lies ahead when trail riding. You may be faced by an obstacle, your unit may breakdown or you may need to assist others. Having the right footwear and gloves will be a great asset. Put it this way, if I had to winch others or myself out of a nasty spot, I would rather be doing it in boots than flip-flops, won’t you? You don’t have to invest into a set of expensive ATV boots; a good pair of water resistant (ankle high) hiking boot will do just fine.
Helping yourself and others, more food for taught. Do you carry the right gear? On countless occasions I have seen riders getting ready to hit the trails and they are only carrying a cooler! Not for a second do they stop and think, what happens if they break down or if someone gets injured. If they do stop and contemplate, their immediate reaction is along the lines of “This won’t happen to me” or “Someone will help us out”, unfortunately that always isn’t the case.
As a minimum you should always be carrying tools, extra fuel and a med kit. If you are riding secluded trails or long distances, you may want to include survival supplies in case of an overnighter were to occur. If you are riding alone, no matter the distance, always let someone know your destination and route plans.
As I mentioned at the beginning, don’t ignore “simplistic safety practices” or in other words, use common sense.
SSOT – Stay safe out there!