Before You Drive an Off-Road Recreational Vehicle, Learn the Safety Essentials

It’s a scenario that Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office in Jennings, Louisiana, sees time and again: children under the age of 16 riding ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) without adult supervision. 

“Typically after school the kids are home, and it’s a very rural parish, so they’re always on the road with ATVs,” Sheriff Ivy Woods told KPLC 7 News.

And, unfortunately, more ATVs or OHVs (off-highway vehicles) on the roads means more deaths and injuries. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), over 400 Americans were killed in OHV accidents in 2022. In 2020, the CPSC estimates that 112,300 injuries associated with OHVs were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. 

Before you strap on a helmet and turn the key, you should know the risks associated with these powerful vehicles. It starts with understanding what you’re getting yourself into. 

Step One: ENSURE You Know The Types of Off-Road Vehicles

OHV, ATV, UTV…what exactly are we talking about here? OHV stands for Off-Highway Vehicle and refers to three types of vehicles meant for off-road driving: All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs), and Utility Task Vehicles (UTVs). 


  • Rider-active machines, you must use your strength to ride and use handlebars to steer, brake, or accelerate
  • No seatbelts, designed for one rider

ROVs and UTVs

  • Commonly known as side-by-sides, look and act like a car
  • Driver uses a steering wheel, an accelerator, and brake pedals
  • Seatbelts for driver and passengers
  • UTVs don’t exceed 30 mph but ROVs can go faster

Because these vehicles carry severe injury and death risks when not used properly or with the appropriate safety equipment, educate yourself on the common hazards that typically come up.  

Step Two: EDUCATE Yourself on Common Hazards

Despite warnings from manufacturers, federal agencies, and consumer and safety advocates that OHVs are unsafe on roadways, they’re showing up there more and more, partly because of relaxed state and local laws. The result? It is estimated that 65 percent of all OHV fatalities happen on public and private roads. 

One of the most common reasons a person is injured or dies while driving an OHV is a collision on a public or private road instead of on a trail designed for OHVs. Off-road vehicles don’t have on-road tires, lighting, or turn signal equipment needed for highway use. OHVs do not provide adequate protection if they collide with an automobile, and the result is often serious injury or death.

In the state of Louisiana, it’s against the law to operate an ATV on any public roadway, but Sheriff Woods says there are some exceptions. “An ATV shouldn’t be driven on the road unless it’s a farm implement, a slow-moving [vehicle] triangle, or it’s registered with the state, which means you need to have an inspection sticker and a license plate.” 

Step Three: EQUIP Yourself With a Game Plan

The best way to equip yourself and hopefully avoid injury is to learn the basics of off-road vehicle safety before you ride. Sign up for a class through the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. Learning proper trail etiquette is another way to provide an enjoyable off-road experience. If you own, operate, or ride an OHV, ensure that you are protected in the event of an injury:

  • Review your insurance coverages.
  • Increase your applicable coverage limits. You need coverage that will protect you if you are injured and if you are responsible for causing an OHV accident.
  • Make sure you have correctly registered your OHV.
  • Review local or parish ordinances for regulations on OHV use on public roads.
  • Take photographs of the OHV, accident scene, and any injuries.

Have You Been in an OHV Accident? Contact Us Today.

What happens if you do find yourself in an OHV accident? Protect yourself and your interests. If you’ve been injured due to an OHV accident and wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.