How to Safely Enjoy Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation This Summer

Off-highway vehicle recreation is big business in Arizona. A 2018 Economic Impact Study conducted by Arizona State University found that resident and non-resident OHV riders contribute roughly $2.6 billion annually to the state’s economy.

And the popularity of the activity continues to grow at an astounding rate. According to the Arizona State Parks and Trails 2020 Trails Plan, 24 percent of Arizonans considered themselves motorized recreational users, which represents more than 1.7 million people. 

As the popularity of off-highway vehicles (OHVs) has risen to an all-time high, so too have deaths and injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over 400 Americans were killed in OHV accidents in 2022. In 2020, the CPSC estimates that 112,300 injuries associated with OHVs were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. 

These vehicles carry severe injury and death risks when not used properly or with the appropriate safety equipment. Before you strap on a helmet and hit the trail, you should familiarize yourself with the risks and learn safety essentials to avoid potential injury. 

First, Public Roads Present Potential Danger

About 65 percent of fatal OHV crashes occur on public or private roads. And despite warnings from manufacturers, federal agencies, and consumer and safety advocates that OHVs are unsafe on roadways, they’re showing up there more and more, partly because of relaxed state and local laws.

Arizona law states that “all resident and non-resident off-highway vehicles (OHVs) designed by the manufacturer primarily for use over unimproved terrain and that weigh 2,500 pounds or less are required by law to display a valid OHV decal to operate on public and state trust lands in Arizona. This includes ‘street legal’ vehicles that meet these two requirements.”If you abide by the law and venture into a public or private road instead of a trail designed for an OHV, remember that off-road vehicles don’t have on-road tires, lighting, or turn signal equipment needed for highway use. And OHVs do not provide adequate protection if they collide with an automobile, and the result is often serious injury or death. 

Second, Follow These Safety Tips and Best Practices

Off-roading can be an excellent way to spend time in the great outdoors, but the consequences of unsafe riding can be tragic. Arizona’s Off-Highway Vehicle Guide highlights places to ride, safety techniques, education programs, and OHV laws. Follow these additional safety tips as a starting point:

  • Ride an ATV that’s right for your size. Children under 12 represent about half of the fatalities among riders under the age of 16, most often because they were operating a machine that was too big.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
  • Always wear goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, and DOT-compliant helmets.
  • Never ride on paved roads except to cross, and do so safely and permitted by law. Remember, OHV stands for Off-Highway Vehicles.
  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV. Do not exceed the number of passengers your OHV is designed for.
  • If an OHV comes factory-rigged with seatbelts, wear them.
  • Take a safety course before riding. Click this link to find one near you. If you plan to let your child use an ATV, consult this readiness checklist first.

Third, Ensure You’re Setting Yourself Up for Safe Riding 

If you own, operate, or ride an OHV, ensure that you are protected in the event of an injury:

  • Review your insurance coverages.
  • Increase your applicable coverage limits. You need coverage that will protect you if you are injured and if you are responsible for causing an OHV accident.
  • Make sure you have correctly registered your OHV.
  • Review local or county ordinances for regulations on OHV use on public roads.
  • Take photographs of the OHV, accident scene, and any injuries.

If you’ve been injured due to an OHV accident and wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.