Remember safety when operating a UTV

Looking to get one last great weekend of summer 2018 in during the long Labor Day holiday?

Make sure it’s memorable for all the right reasons, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute advises.

As utility vehicles, or UTVs, grow in popularity in rural, suburban and urban areas, it’s important for operators and passengers to keep safety in mind.

“While UTVs are a lot of fun to drive, they should be treated like work vehicles, not toys,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI, an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine, and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

OPEI offers the following safety tips:

— Read the owner’s manual. Follow all guidelines and familiarize yourself with the controls. Misplaced manuals can be found online and saved on computer for future reference.

— Inspect the UTV before operation. Pay attention to tires, lights, and other systems. Check for missing or damaged parts. Replace any parts needed or take equipment to a qualified service representative.

— Only responsible, adult drivers should operate UTVs. Take a safety course for UTV operators. Do not allow a child to operate a UTV.

— Always wear a seat belt and utilize handholds. UTVs are equipped with seat belts for the operator and for any passengers. Passengers should be tall enough to reach handholds in the UTV while their backs are against the seat and feet are flat on the floorboards.

— Remember “all in.” Keep hands, arms, legs and feet inside the UTV at all times.

— Exercise caution, especially on slopes. Drive completely up or down a slope or hill before making a turn. Do not turn the vehicle in mid-slope and stay clear of ditches and embankments. Regardless of inclines, drive slowly and turn smoothly. Pay attention when backing up.

— Pay attention when hauling a load. When hauling cargo, the vehicle’s center of gravity is raised, so the operator may need to slow down and adjust driving. Materials being hauled should be in the cargo box and secured.

— Use care when towing a load. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for weight limits and make sure the cargo box is loaded to assume good traction for driving and stopping. Tow a load at a speed slow enough to maintain control. Remember, the stopping distance increases with the speed and weight of a towed load.

— Only operate the UTV in clear conditions, not in poor weather, when tired or when intoxicated.

— Maintain the UTV and fuel it properly. Follow manufacturer recommendations for maintenance, and only use E10 or less fuel. Some gas stations may offer 15 percent ethanol gas or higher ethanol fuel blends, but any fuel containing more than 10 percent ethanol can damage — and is illegal to use in — small engine equipment not designed for it, such as a UTV. Also, never put “old” gas in UTV. If you don’t know the date of purchase, dispose safely of the fuel in the can and buy fresh fuel.

For more safety tips, go to www.opei.org. For further information on proper fueling, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.