Know before you go on anything on wheels
As thousands of Utahns head to the mountains and deserts for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation this summer, Utah State Parks and the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) are reminding riders to "know before you go" by obeying Utah laws and wearing a helmet.
UDOH data show that in 2010, more than 1,800 Utahns were treated in the emergency department or hospitalized for OHV-related injuries and 20 died. OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), off-road motorcycles, and snowmobiles. OHV crashes are also a leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in Utah.
Jenny Johnson, spokesperson for the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program, stresses the importance of staying within your riding limits. "We want Utahns to get out and enjoy our beautiful recreation areas. But remember, OHVs aren't toys. When handled improperly or beyond the driving abilities of the operator or manufacturer specifications, they can be deadly."
Operators between the ages of eight and 15 are required by law to take an OHV Safety Education class approved by Utah State Parks and Recreation and obtain their Utah OHV Safety Education Certificate before operating OHVs. It is illegal for any child under age eight to operate an OHV on public land. Drivers 16 years of age and older must have a valid driver's license to operate one.
"More than 50,000 Utahns have taken the OHV Safety Education classes. They are an invaluable teaching tool for young drivers and their parents," said Chris Haller, OHV Program Manager for Utah State Parks and Recreation. The classes focus on safety, handling, maintenance, and riding etiquette. Online OHV safety education courses are available at
Helmets with at least a U.S. Department of Transportation-approved safety rating for motorized use are required for all OHV operators and passengers under the age of 18.
"A helmet is always a must," said Reed Embley, President of the Northern Utah ATV Trail Riders. "As a former EMT, I know how devastating head injuries can be. When you ignore safety, the outcome will usually not be pleasant. A small, almost inconsequential accident can change your life forever."
UDOH and State Parks officials recommend the following when enjoying OHVs:
Ride a machine that is the right size for you. Children should only ride OHVs that the manufacturer indicates are appropriate for their age and size. Riding a machine that is too big or too small is a major cause of crashes. Riders should be able to straddle the machine with a slight bend in the knees while both feet are on the footrests. Riders should be able to reach the controls while turning.
Always ride in control. Never attempt anything that is beyond your skill level or machine capability.
Only carry passengers if an OHV is specifically designed for it. Off-road motorcycles and most ATVs are designed to be ridden by only one person.
Don't drive or ride on an OHV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
For more safety tips, information on trails and riding conditions, and OHV Safety Education classes, contact the Utah Division of State Parks and Recreation OHV Program at 801-538-RIDE or visit http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/ohv.