The last few weeks for me have been overwhelmingly exhilarating in many ways.
Attack of the Ambulance Chasers!
The last few weeks for me have been overwhelmingly exhilarating in many ways. It all started with my adventure to the 2008 High Lifter Mud Nationals, then off to the East Coast to race my first ever GNCC and rounding it all off with a long journey to Washington State for the most recent WORCS race. But even with all of these great experiences, I could not seem to escape something that was truly bothering me. It actually irritated me to the point that I asked Thad to let me have this column for the August issue.
In my time here at ATV Rider, I’ve become the resident side-by-side guru by many in our office. By no means do I think I am the side-by-side authority, but I do have more seat time than most and have a true passion for driving them. With that said, I am greatly affected when I see commercials and ads by random legal offices seeking out those who have been injured due to rolling a Rhino. Have you seen these, they are everywhere? Every time one of these devious commercials roll on TV, it painfully shifts my thoughts back to those horrifying days of the mid 1980’s when shows like 60 Minutes and 20/20 would attack the infamous 3 wheeler. What grieves me most are those irresponsible riders who respond to these advertisements. I’m not saying that people don’t get hurt at times while riding in vehicles like the Rhino, but probably more times than not, the injuries are due to a lack of skill, not wearing proper safety gear and even carelessness. I have been in situations myself when I have felt over confident because of the cage that surrounded me.
Now, if I crashed and injured myself because I was over confident of my ability, does that give me honest reason to hunt down the manufacturer and say they’ve built an unsafe product? Absolutely not! That’s like buying a brand new car, driving it irresponsibly, crashing it and getting hurt. Was it the fault of the cars manufacturer or was it your lack of common sense telling you “Hey, you’re going a little too fast and driving recklessly.” People must learn to accept the consequences for their own actions.
An even larger concern is people that allow their kids to drive these machines around. I’ve heard numerous stories whether true or false of small children being seriously or even fatally injured in rollover incidents. These machines are nothing more than scaled down sport vehicles. A 10 year old child has no business hauling all of his or her friends around either in the passenger seat or piled in the bed for that matter. Would you allow them to take off in your car or truck while you sit around chatting with friends? Do you really think they have the experience and even a developed sense of responsibility at this age? I don’t think so and unleashing them in a vehicle like this should be no different.
Most states do not allow people to drive an automobile until they are at least 16 years of age. Even then, there are limits as to how old their passengers can be until they have so many years of driving experience. Side-by-sides have a warning label that encourages parents not to allow anyone under the age of 16 to operate these vehicles. Do you think they spend the time and energy to put these labels on just because they feel like it? It’s scary to think of kids getting hurt or killed because of driving accidents. Why don’t people comprehend these warnings?
I’ve heard rumors of families suing the manufacturers for the harm or death of loved ones. My deepest sympathy goes out to these families for their loss, but whose fault is it really? My intentions of writing this are not to upset our readers (even though I know some will be), but rather to shed light on an increasingly horrible situation. Companies like Yamaha, Kawasaki and Polaris have spent many years of research and design to bring us the greatest machines ever. If enough of these bloodthirsty ambulance-chasing lawyers lure in clients through these commercials, the side-by-side world could come quickly crashing down. How do I know that this could happen, well, look to the 3-wheeler market that was completely wiped from existence in the 80’s. It’s happened before, and you can bet that it could happen again.
So what will we be left with if that happens? The good news is that the solution is actually simple and easy if we all band together. We all should learn to drive within our means. Take time to figure out the handling of your machine and even make upgrades that can make it safer at higher performing levels. Second of all is to keep the kids out of the drivers’ seat. I know many kids out there are not going to like me for this one, but it sure beats more injured kids and loosing side-x-sides forever. Lastly is to take responsibility for your actions. It’s too easy now days to put the blame on someone else for our own lack of good judgment.
To those who are fuming from my words, I apologize if I come across as the side-by-side police. But I do want to bring a sense of awareness to all enthusiasts and try to stop this snowballing affect before it’s too late. The more widespread these commercials become and the more people respond to them trying to make a quick buck, the worse things will get for the sport we love and are so passionate about. After manufacturers did away with 3 wheelers, they also agreed to stop making high performance ATV’s for over 10 years.
Luckily, those of us who loved this sport spent 10 exhausting years nurturing it back to health. Do we want this same kind of agreement to happen again? I know for a fact that I don’t. And if you want to continue enjoying your weekends on side-by-sides, you should join me in fighting for our right to continue. I think there are already enough Rhinos on the endangered species list.
Until I get cranky about something else and need to rant again, keep the rubber side down! And do it with responsibility please.
ATV Rider Magazine