A UTV, which stands for utility task vehicle or utility terrain vehicle, is a small, golf cart-looking contraption that combines all-terrain capabilities with more traditional passenger seating. And, like the ATV, UTVs are used to explore terrain that isn’t accessible in traditional vehicle types, and are often reserved for the adventuring soul. UTVs are also commonly called side-by-sides, or ROVs (Recreational Off-highway Vehicles), and are no doubt fun, a great way to explore, and an awesome way to pass a day.
But UTVs can be extremely dangerous too, and every year, there are numerous deaths reported following UTV accidents. In addition to the myriad inherent risks of UTV operation, something that may make UTVs especially risky is the addition of extra seats. Here’s what you need to know:
The Risks of Side-by-Sides
As reported by an article published in The New York Times back in 2011, side-by-sides had nearly instantaneous popularity when they were first marketed to the average consumer, and are now the preferred choice for many former ATV fans, but these vehicles are not without significant risks. In fact, at the time of the article’s publication, side-by-sides had already been linked to 160 deaths, and nearly two times as many injuries as ATVs over a 10-year time period. Some things that set UTVs apart from ATVs, and which could potentially make them more dangerous, or tempt operators to take more risks, include:
- UTVs can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour;
- Driver’s licenses for UTVs are not required in all states (operators do not need a license to operate an all-terrain vehicle in West Virginia);
- UTVs are equipped with a roll bar;
- UTVs have steering wheels; and
- UTVs are equipped with seatbelts.
Of course, another thing that makes side-by-sides different is that they also allow for more than one operator. UTVs have two seats that are set side-by-side (hence the name), and some are designed with additional seating for more passengers.
The biggest risk that side-by-sides pose is the risk of rollover leading to passenger injury. In a rollover, or another accident type, particularly when an operator or passenger is not secured by seatbelt, injuries can include traumatic brain injuries, spine and spinal cord injuries, amputation injuries, internal injuries, fractures, and even psychological injuries. To highlight just how dangerous these vehicles are, consider that as early as 2009, there were more than 440 wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits pending against Yamaha, the maker of the Rhino (a UTV) that was involved in hundreds of accidents, many of which were rollovers.
Does Adding Additional Seating Increase a Vehicle’s Risk of Accident?
As stated above, there is sometimes the option to add additional passenger seating to a UTV by purchasing products such as the Great Day Rumble Seat, which is advertised as being able to “double your UTV’s seating capacity.” Specifically, the Great Day Rumble Seat allows additional passengers to sit in the cargo bed of the UTV. However, the ATV Safety Institute, which provides warnings for users and manufactures of ATVs and UTVs, has identified this as hazardous, and has issued a warning to manufacturers, retailers, and users of UTVs to not permit passengers to ride in the cargo bed.
While little research into the effects of adding extra seating to a vehicle that is only designed to carry two passengers has been done, some of the risks are obvious. First, a UTV is a vehicle that is designed to carry two passengers and is not structurally prepared, nor sound enough, to carry four. Further, adding extra passengers can cause weight imbalances in the already light vehicles, which could increase the risk of rollover. Further, the seats, at least the Great Day Rumble Seats, are designed for adults, which means that they may not safely secure children. Unfortunately, many people who are looking for a four-seater vehicle are doing so in hopes of bringing their whole family along for the ride, and may not notice this potential design flaws.
If you love UTVs, and if you are hoping to operate a UTV with more than one passenger, the safest thing that you can do is to use a four-seat terrain vehicle rather than attempting to add your own seats to a two-wheel vehicle. However, keep in mind that any time negligence is involved, no vehicle, regardless of its design, is necessarily safe.
Contact the Law Offices of Bailey, Javins, & Carter L.C. Today
At the law offices of Bailey, Javins, & Carter L.C., we know that ATVs and UTVs are fun to use, and we have nothing against having a good time. We also know, however, that UTVs are often designed and manufactured with defects that make them dangerous for use, and design flaws that increase the risk of accident. Our experienced West Virginia ATV/UTV attorneys are highly concerned about the addition of extra passenger seating to UTVs, and encourage those throughout West Virginia to weigh the risks before installing these seat types.
If you have been involved in an accident involving a UTV, please contact us today. Consultations with our law firm are offered free of charge, and we work on a contingency fee basis. Contact our firm at (800) 497-0234.