A Spring Break excursion turned to tragedy last week, when a 14-year-old Edmond boy lost his life in an UTV accident.
According to Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troopers, two 14-year-old boys and a 13-year-old girl were riding the UTV on Simpson Road near Kelley Avenue in Guthrie when the driver, the girl, lost control of the vehicle for an unknown reason.
The Polaris Ranger left the roadway, struck an embankment, and rolled several times. Two of the teens were ejected, and one of them was pinned beneath the vehicle.
Nearby construction workers heard the crash and ran to help. The were able to free the boy from underneath the vehicle, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The other boy was transported to OU Children's Hospital with injuries to his head, arm, and trunk. He was listed in good condition.
The girl was not injured in the crash.
A trooper's report lists the cause of the accident as driver inexperience. OHP Capt. Paul Timmons reminds riders, "These things are not technically street legal. They`re to be ridden off-road. It`s like anything else. You have to be really careful when you operate that type of equipment."
A UTV (utility task vehicle) and an ATV (all terrain vehicle) are similar in that they are intended to be ridden off-road. While ATVs are primarily recreational, UTVs cross the line between work and play: they have more room for passengers, they have more room for hauling cargo, and they can be customized with accessories for specific jobs.
Often, people think UTVs are safer than ATVs because of their top roll bars and seat belts. However, if seatbelts aren't in use, riders can be easily ejected in a rollover accident. Ohio State University Extension offers the following UTV safety tips:
- Keep legs and arms inside the vehicle at all times.
- Drive slowly and turn smoothly to avoid an overturn.
- When hauling cargo the vehicle's center of gravity is raised, increasing the chance of overturning.
- Drive completely up or down a slope or hill before making a turn. Do not turn the vehicle in mid-slope or hill as this increases the probability of overturning.
- Use the appropriate speed on rough terrain.
- Operators and passengers have been thrown from vehicles.
- Stay clear of ditches and embankments.
- Passengers must be tall enough to reach handhold while their backs are against the seat and their feet are flat on the floorboards.
- Each passenger must ride in his/her own seat, not anywhere else on the UTV.
- Operators must back up carefully. Look especially for children before backing.
- Operators should be free from the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Due to the hauling purpose of a UTV, special attention should be paid to making sure cargo or material is properly secured during transport.
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