WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
— I’m not the best example to follow —
By Joe Kosch
Editor’s note: Before I say anything else, I want you to know that safety is no joke. Read your machine’s owner’s manual, follow its instructions, always use good sense, and drive within your and your machine’s limits.
I was looking through a few UTV owners’ manuals recently and discovered that I may not be the best example for the UTVing public. As it turns out, I don’t comply completely with many of the warnings I found in the manuals. I’m not trying to justify my behavior. I totally agree that following the manuals’ guidelines is the safest way to operate UTVs. It’s just that, in some cases, I’m willing to take a bit more personal risk than the manuals recommend for purely personal reasons.
I was only on the first page of one manual, and I saw a warning explaining the dangers associated with breathing engine exhaust. Only one page in and I hit a warning I may have ignored about a million times! I know it’s harmful and should be avoided, but a little engine exhaust in the breeze reminds me of fun times, and I kind of like it, so I guess that means I’m disregarding safety before I’m even in a UTV!
The next notice I saw announced that the vehicle had been subjected to European vibration and noise tests. That’s good, but I’m not sure if these tests have protected me against the American vibration and noise I’ve experienced on trails in America, or Mexican vibration and noise or Canadian vibration and noise. There’s no telling how unsafe I’ve been!
I was just a few more pages in when I saw a warning about avoiding careless or reckless driving, such as abrupt maneuvers, sideways sliding, skidding, fishtailing and donuts. It was troubling to learn that much of the driving I enjoy most, including abrupt maneuvers, sideways sliding, skidding and fishtailing, is careless and reckless. I try to avoid donuts, but I can’t stop myself if there are any sugar-covered or glazed ones in the box. I don’t do donuts in UTVs, though.
The manuals even explained safe ways to perform very specific driving skills, like “slow down before entering a turn.” I did this in a race once and everybody passed me.
The manual also had the warning “avoid hard acceleration when turning” This is good, safe advice, but it should really say, “If you want all your riding buddies to roost you, avoid hard acceleration when turning.”
One safety warning said all riders in the UTV must be able to sit with backs against the seat, both feet flat on the floor and both hands on the steering wheel. That’s not how I want to drive. I’m okay with everybody in the car having their backs against the seats and feet on the floor, but when I’m driving, I don’t want everybody in the car to have both hands on the wheel. And who are these long-armed guys who can have their backs against the seats, both feet on the floor and can get both hands on the wheel from the back seats of a four-seater?
One part of the owner’s manual was devoted to pointing out all the safety warning labels on the UTV itself. I recommend you read and observe them all. One manual also said that the manufacturer provides safety labels at no charge, and if a label becomes illegible or comes off, you should go to your dealer to purchase a replacement! I’ve heard dealers say they really don’t make that much money selling UTVs. I guess there’s so much profit in safety labels they don’t have to.
Following most of the manual’s instructions is going to take a little effort on my part, but I know one of the warnings is not going to go over well with any passengers I plan to take along. It says, “Never carry a passenger until you have operated this vehicle for at least two hours and have completed the new operator driving procedures.” I’m not the fastest driver in the world, but I can cover a lot of pretty brutal terrain in two hours. Even if the terrain is easy and I’m averaging like 30 miles an hour, that puts me 60 miles out. That means my passenger is going to have a long, tough walk from the truck to wherever I’m at. There’s no telling how long it will take my passenger to reach me, but I’ll have time to kill, because completing the new operator driving procedures will take me a while. There are 17 steps, and step one is, “Read and understand the owner’s manual and all warning and instruction labels.”