ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Utility vehicles, or UTVs, are modern day workhorses that haul heavy loads, transport materials and make jobs easier. As they grow in popularity in rural, suburban and urban areas, it’s important for operators and passengers to keep safety in mind.
“While UTVs are a lot of fun to drive, they should be treated like work vehicles, not toys,” reminds Kris Kiser, President and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine, and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.
OPEI offers the following safety tips:
• Read your owner’s manual. Follow all guidelines and familiarize yourself with the controls. Misplaced manuals can be found online and saved on your computer for future reference.
• Inspect your UTV before operation. Pay attention to tires, lights, and other systems. Check for missing or damaged parts. Replace any parts needed or take equipment to a qualified service representative.
• Only responsible, adult drivers should operate UTVs. Take a safety course for UTV operators. Do not allow a child to operate a UTV.
• Always wear your seat belt and utilize handholds. UTVs are equipped with a seat belt for the operator and with seat belts for any passengers. Passengers should be tall enough to reach handholds in the UTV while their backs are against the seat and feet are flat on the floorboards.
• Remember “all in.” Keep hands, arms, legs and feet inside the UTV at all times.
• Exercise caution, especially on slopes. Drive completely up or down a slope or hill before making a turn. Do not turn the vehicle in mid-slope, and stay clear of ditches and embankments. Regardless of inclines, drive slowly and turn smoothly. Pay attention when backing up.
• Pay attention when hauling a load. When hauling cargo the vehicle’s center of gravity is raised, so you may need to slow down and adjust your driving. Materials you are hauling should be in the cargo box and secured.
• Use care when towing a load. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for weight limits, and make sure the cargo box is loaded to assume good traction for driving and stopping. Tow a load at a speed slow enough to maintain control. Remember, the stopping distance increases with the speed and weight of a towed load.
• Only operate your UTV in clear conditions. Do not operate your UTV in poor weather, when tired, or when intoxicated.
• Maintain your UTV and fuel it properly. Follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance, and only use E10 or less fuel. Some gas stations may offer 15 percent ethanol (E15) gas or higher ethanol fuel blends, but any fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol can damage — and is illegal to use in — small engine equipment (like a UTV) not designed for it. Also, never put “old” gas in your UTV. If you don’t know the date of purchase, dispose safely of the fuel in the can and buy fresh fuel.