We are grateful to serve the recreational insurance needs of Iowa instead of a major coastal city. Instead of offering summer safety tips such as “how to outrun giant, hungry rats” or “which parks are safest to sleep in after your landlord has raised your rent to $9,500,” we get to tell our clients how they can avoid injury while using fun vehicles.

Iowa’s vast expanses of open land pretty much beg to be driven across in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) or utility terrain vehicle (UTV; aka “side by side,” or SxS). Unfortunately, operating an off-highway vehicle (OHV) does come with its inherent dangers. An average of 700 Americans die as the result of OHV accidents each year. An additional 100,000 are sent to emergency rooms. We want you to have pure, nontraumatic fun on your OHV this year. Here are a few tips you can follow without forfeiting your freedom!


Ride Sober

Drunk driving is the leading cause of death on American roadways. This may come as no surprise, but operating an OHV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can have similarly disastrous consequences. You can be arrested for operating while intoxicated (OWI) while driving an OHV in Iowa. That’s to say nothing of the significantly higher risk of injury you assume while drunkenly operating an OHV.

Worse yet, you may injure someone else. For a sobering example, consider the case of Austin Copsey of Minnesota, who was charged with criminal vehicular homicide after driving an ATV drunk, crashing, and killing his 12-year-old passenger. A regular person who had a lapse of judgment that cost the life of an innocent child – don’t let that become you.


Don’t Let Kids Operate Adult-Size Vehicles

It is your right as a parent to decide whether your child is old and mature enough to operate an OHV. Just take care that adult-size ATVs, which can weigh 800 lbs and reach speeds in excess of 70 mph, are inherently dangerous for children to operate. Over 90% of children under the age of 16 who die or are injured as the result of ATV accidents were riding adult-size OHVs. Pick a kid-friendly four-wheeler for your son or daughter instead!


Wear Safety Gear

Most people who die while riding an ATV weren’t wearing a helmet at the time of their accident. Helmets provide a 69 percent reduction in risk of head and brain injury during OHV accidents!

Whether you wear a helmet while operating an OHV on your own land is entirely up to you. Just take care that Iowa state law requires riders and their passengers to wear DOT or SNELL approved helmets at DNR-designated OHV parks.

Helmets aren’t the only safety gear you should consider wearing on the trail. Goggles can preserve your irreplaceable eyes while you are riding and during an accident. Over-the-ankle-boots can save you from an agonizing foot injury. A good pair of ATV gloves will help you maintain control over your vehicle, not to mention keep your fingers intact during a mishap.


Keep Passengers Safe

Is your OHV designed to carry one passenger? Then make certain to carry no more than one passenger. And if your OHV is not designed to carry any passengers, exclusively ride it solo.

Make your passenger’s safety your responsibility. Tell them to strap their helmet on before you take off together. Tell them to hold on to the grab handles at all times. And if you are operating a UTV, tell your passenger that you aren’t going anywhere until their seatbelt is securely fastened.

Finally, take your OHV’s weight limit into account. The average payload capacity for an ATV is 491 lbs. Actual weight capacities vary considerably by model, although two amply proportioned riders can easily exceed any ATV’s weight limit. Exceeding an OHV’s weight limit can cause you to lose control at an extremely inopportune moment, so always remain cognizant of that payload!


Stay Off the Asphalt

It’s called an “off-road” vehicle for good reason. ATVs, UTVs and other OHVs aren’t designed to exhibit their best performance on asphalt. In no uncertain terms, you are more likely to lose control of an OHV while you’re piloting it across a bituminous surface. Worse yet, falling onto asphalt is far likelier to cause death or injury than dirt, sand or grass.

This may go without saying, but roadways are filled with vehicles that are far heavier and moving much faster than your OHV. Avoiding asphalt therefore means avoiding cars, trucks, SUVs and semis – all things you absolutely don’t want to collide with under any circumstances, especially while you’re seated on an OHV.

We hope our advice helps you avoid a nasty injury this summer! But remember: You can never be too careful. If you would like to insure an ATV, UTV, dirt bike, golf cart, RV, snowmobile, boat, motorcycle, or any other vehicle you exclusively operate for pleasure, then we welcome you to contact the Hoffman Agency today. We help Iowans protect everything that matters to them, including their toys!