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EAU CLAIRE –– They are popular, practical and fun but quickly can turn dangerous or even deadly.
Utility terrain vehicles, or UTVs, are growing in popularity. Much like the popular, single-rider all-terrain vehicle, or ATV, the UTV is designed for hauling on rough terrain but allows two people to sit beside each other.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, since the beginning of 2015, six UTV fatalities in Wisconsin have been reported. Victims range in age from 10 to 77. Half of all reported victims were not wearing helmets at the time of the accident. UTVs often are capable of reaching speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
According to David Ciresi, M.D., a trauma surgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, most of these events are preventable. “There often is a false sense of security for drivers and passengers in UTVs,” says Dr. Ciresi. “While one may feel safer in a UTV, it quickly can lead to a feeling of overconfidence. The UTV has a high center of gravity, giving it the potential to roll more easily than a car and is often driven in uneven terrain.”
According to Dr. Ciresi, the same rules that apply to motorcycles or other motorized vehicles also should apply to drivers and passengers of a UTV, including:
• Use your seat belts all the time.
• Always wear a helmet.
• Do not drink and operate a UTV, as alcohol slows reaction time.
• Do not drive in poor weather or when you are tired.
• Do not drive drunk on a trail, as it is the same as driving drunk on the highway.
• Do not allow children to operate a UTV; it is not a toy.
“As a Level II Trauma Center, we care for UTV crash victims at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire,” says Dr. Ciresi. “The results of UTV accidents can be devastating. While everyone wants to have fun, it is important to remember to use UTVs responsibly and safely. Many of these traumas are preventable, but people need to acknowledge their toy is actually a powerful and heavy vehicle with the capability of inflicting lifelong damage.”