Texas Tech University

UTV Overturns During Routine Travel, Student Pinned and Concussed

What happened?

On February 14, 2022, a technician was driving a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle) on fairly flat terrain at a field site in the Lubbock area. The technician swerved off the road for an unknown reason, over corrected and caused the UTV to flip on its side.

UTV crash

The safety equipment kept the individual from being ejected from the vehicle but their foot was pinned between the ground and the floorboard of the vehicle and had to call for help. The technician also received a concussion during the incident and has limited memory of what happened that day. The technician was taken for medical treatment and placed under observation for a short time.

What was the cause?

Upon investigation of the scene, the facility manager discovered coyote footprints going across the road ahead of where the technician swerved off road. They could have swerved to avoid hitting the animal.

What can we learn from this incident?

Notice that the terrain in the image above is fairly level and not necessarily an area that most people think of as dangerous terrain. This observance emphasizes the importance of safety at all times while in the field. Additional lessons learned include:

  • Drive slowly when operating off-road vehicles even on well-known terrain.
  • Use seatbelts and other safety equipment.
  • Always be vigilant of your surroundings.
  • Always keep your communication device (e.g., cell phone, radio, etc.) on your immediate person during field travel. 
  • Personnel using ATVs, UTVs or other vehicle must be trained on proper use of the vehicle in conditions similar to that of the field work area.

What corrective actions have been taken?

The Institutional Laboratory Safety Committee and field researchers across campus collaborated to construct the Field Safety Manual, which is included as Section E of the University Laboratory Safety Manual.

Due to the constantly changing conditions of field research, the emphasis on proper training
and preparedness is of utmost importance for all people entering the field. All fieldwork
warrants a pre-trip training regarding foreseen hazards, appropriate precautions,
communication options, and emergency procedures.

Some stipulations of the manual include:

  • The Field Trip Leader must conduct a thorough risk assessment of the proposed field excursion and activities and construct a Field Safety Plan detailing location, hazards, operations, safety equipment and emergency procedures. All field participants must be trained on the Field Safety Plan prior to departure.
  • Each Field Group must establish a Designated Contact.
  • Field participants must obtain recommended vaccinations and other medical preparations appropriate to the field site.
  • At least two participants on each field excursion must be trained in First Aid Response.
  • Transportation of any hazardous materials to field site locations must be done so in accordance with DOT regulations. 
  • Participants should be trained on field equipment prior to departure, including use of farming equipment or ATVs or related vehicles.

EHS has developed a Field Safety webpage to share field safety resources including online training for UTV and ATV use.