Sporting vehicles like ATVs and UTVs are a lot of fun to ride on and off roading, but there are certain laws that must be followed when you use them. If you are involved in an accident with an ATV or UTV, liability may become a complex issue. You can easily be seriously injured, but it can be difficult to get the compensation you need to cover your damages.
What Are ATVs and UTVs?
ATVs are “all terrain vehicles” and UTVs are “utility terrain vehicles.” Both vehicles are used for recreation as well as work purposes throughout South Carolina.
Purpose and Types of ATVs
An ATV is a motorized off-road vehicle that has four low pressure tires. The seat is designed to be straddled by the driver and handlebars are used for steering control. There are two types of ATVs: those designed to be used by a single operator and those intended for use by a driver and passenger.
There are different sizes of ATVs that should be sized according to the riders. Youth ATVs are made for smaller riders and operate at lower speeds.
ATV Safety & Chandler’s Law
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), reported that according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 450 children are injured annually in South Carolina in ATV accidents. Approximately 95% of children who were killed on ATVs were riding on adult-sized vehicles despite industry recommendations that children only use youth ATVs.
In an attempt to promote ATV safety, South Carolina instituted “Chandler’s Law” in 2011. Under Chandler’s Law, the minimum age to operate an ATV is 6 years old. Additionally, any child 16 and under must be accompanied by an adult if they are riding on public property.
Chandler’s Law made the following requirements for children under the age of 16 who ride ATVs:
- They must complete an ATV rider safety training course
- They must wear a safety helmet and eye protection
- They must ride age appropriate ATVs
- They cannot carry a passenger without a valid driver’s license
These requirements do not apply to ATVs when they are being used for farming, ranching, hunting, or trapping purposes.
ATVs may be registered with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles and receive a title. However, a title is not required. It does make it easier to identify ownership of the ATV if it is stolen.
ATV Accidents and Personal Injury Claims
ATV owners and drivers who operate their vehicles on public roads are subject to the same insurance requirements as other motor vehicles pursuant to South Carolina Code Section 56-2-120(C). That means that if you are involved in an ATV accident on public property, then you can file an insurance claim against the ATV owner’s mandatory insurance company. This can help you get the compensation you need to cover your losses.
Use of UTVs in South Carolina
UTVs are much larger vehicles than ATVs. They have non straddle seats and a wheel for steering control. They have four wheels and are intended to transport individuals or cargo. They have a top speed of over 35 miles per hour.
South Carolina UTV Laws
Currently, South Carolina law seems to overlook UTVs. There is a section in the Motor Vehicles Code 56-2-140 addressing specialized vehicles, but it does not address UTVs. It describes requirements for low-speed vehicles, such as ATVs. However, it does not have requirements for higher speed UTVs.
South Carolina legislators introduced a bill in 2021 that would define UTV and impose certain requirements on owners and riders. The law would modify South Carolina Code Section 56-2-140. It is currently being considered by the South Carolina Senate Committee on Transportation.
Under this bill, to operate a UTV on public roadways, the UTV must be registered with the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. It must have a license plate affixed to the rear of the vehicle.
Additionally, under the 2021 bill, all UTV operators must be at least 16 years old and have a valid driver’s license. To operate the vehicle on a public roadway, the driver must have proof of liability insurance as well.
Passengers of UTVs may not be under the age of 8. Further, drivers and passengers who are under 18 must wear protective gear. Registered UTVs must have seat belt assemblies and other operable safety features, such as headlights, brake lights, taillights, and turn signals.
UTV Accidents in South Carolina
If you are in a UTV accident in South Carolina, there are many variables that determine your ability to recover maximum compensation.
If the accident was caused by a car or truck driver, you can file an insurance claim against the other driver’s company. However, if you were a passenger or another UTV driver, you may be limited. Since the 2021 bill has not yet passed, the UTV owner may not have motor vehicle insurance – especially if you were not driving on public roads. In that case, you may have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the UTV owner or driver personally.
Through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit, you can get compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
If the 2021 bill passes, it will be much easier to get compensation through an insurance claim since insurance will be required to drive the UTV. Any violation of the law can prove negligence and breach of duty, which can lead to liability.
Talk to an ATV and UTV Accident Lawyer About Your Options
You may have multiple options on how to proceed after an ATV accident or UTV crash. Your options will depend on who caused the wreck and whether there is appropriate motor vehicle insurance. Attorney Venus Poe can review your specific situation and help you understand your rights. Call us today at (864) 689-3382.