Yamaha’s Rhino is among the new class of UTVs that have followed the ATVs several years of popularity among outdoors men and women – and, unfortunately, kids. The Rhino and most UTVs are longer and higher than an ATV, with seating for two and a small utility box mounted behind the seats that looks like a miniature pickup truck bed.
In the case of the Yamaha Rhino, the wheelbase is longer than most ATVs but not wider. The result is a vehicle that is heavier and higher off the ground than an ATV. The Rhino’s long and narrow chassis has caused the vehicle to rollover under less than extreme circumstances, leading many to question the design of the vehicle.
Yamaha has recognized the shortcomings of the Rhino, to the extent that it has added doors and hand-grips to the 2008 model. Moreover, Yamaha has offered to retrofit all Rhinos built from 2004 to 2007 with doors and hand-grips. It has attached a warning label to all Rhinos now coming off the production line that provides specific instructions about what to do if you are riding in a Rhino and it begins to tip. The label also warns that Rhinos should be kept off paved surfaces. “Turn gradually and go slowly if you must drive on pavement. This vehicle is designed for off-road use only.”
That amounts to a fairly clear acknowledgement on Yamaha’s part that the Rhino has a rollover problem. It should also sound a warning bell for any parent that Rhinos aren’t vehicles that can be left alongside the house where kids can hop in for a spin through the neighborhood.
Rhino rollovers have resulted in both injuries and fatalities. The seat belts often do little good in a vehicle with no doors that is rolling over sideways. Passengers who have been through these accidents have had limbs crushed or been caught beneath the roll cage. While Yamaha has kept them on the market, they have done nothing to alter the design flaws inherent in a narrow chassis on a vehicle that is prone to roll on pavement.
There have been several lawsuits filed against Yamaha as the result of injuries and deaths suffered in Rhino accidents. As long as they remain on the market, the list of injured outdoors-men and children is going to grow. A vehicle that is built for the “drive it anywhere” market should not require retrofits and warnings. It is remarkable that every new Rhino has a sticker describing the dangers of driving around the block.