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HB 1092: Four-Wheelers Risky… So Let’s Make Owners Immune from Liability!

Medical procedures and off-road vehicles both have inherent risks. Medical procedures have all sorts of safeguards, including, most importantly, medical professionals who apply years of schooling and experience to diagnose, educate, and properly treat their patients. But pretty much any knucklehead can ride four-wheeler with no helmet and no guidance beyond a ten-second tutorial (gas, brake, watch out for rocks!).

Yet the regulatory impulse of our Legislature, which in 2018 lost Rep. Jim Schaefer in an off-road-vehicle accident, seems to operate in inverse proportion to demonstrated risk. Republican legislators are tying tehmselves and progressive protestors and national press into evangelical knots trying to prohibit medical professionals from offering certain medical procedures to transgender youth—treatments which in South Dakota either have not been shown to do any harm or to be taking place at all. However, a few of the same legislators are sponsoring House Bill 1092, which would make certain owners and operators of off-road vehicles immune from liability to folks who get hurt or killed using or even watching their equipment.

HB 1092 would give legal immunity to any “off-road vehicle activity sponsor or off-road vehicle professional… for an injury to or the death of a participant resulting from an inherent risk of off-road vehicle activity.” HB 1092 defines those key terms as follows:

  1. Off-road vehicle activity:
    1. An off-road vehicle show, competition, performance, parade, hunt, recreational ride, or trail ride;
    2. Off-road vehicle training or teaching activities, or both;
    3. Riding, inspecting, or evaluating an off-road vehicle belonging to another person, whether the owner has received monetary consideration or anything of value for the use of the off-road vehicle or is permitting a prospective purchaser of the off-road vehicle to ride, inspect, or evaluate the off-road vehicle; or
    4. A ride, trip, hunt, or other off-road vehicle activity, however informal or impromptu, that is sponsored by an off-road vehicle activity sponsor;”
  2. Off-road vehicle activity sponsor:
    1. An individual, group, club, partnership, or corporation, whether operating for-profit or not-for-profit, that sponsors, organizes, or provides the facilities for an off-road vehicle activity including a club, riding club, hunt club, park, or a school or college-sponsored class, program, or activity;
    2. An operator, instructor, or promoter of an off-road vehicle facility, including any commercial off-road park charging fees to the public or offering private memberships to use the park’s trail system and related amenities for off-road vehicle uses, trail system, clubhouse, or arena where the activity is held; or
    3. A landowner who has given permission for the use of the landowner’s land in an off-road activity either by easement or other means;
  3. Off-road vehicle professional: any person who, for compensation, instructs the participant or rents an off-road vehicle to the participant for the purpose of driving or being a passenger on the off-road vehicle, or who rents equipment to a participant;
  4. Participant: any person, amateur or professional, who engages in off-road vehicle activity, whether or not a fee is paid to participate in the off-road vehicle activity.

Spectators at off-road events can still sue if they are hurt by passing vehicles, but not if they stray into an “unauthorized area”.

HB 1092 still allows injured parties to hold off-road activity sponsors and vehicle professionals liable in cases where the sponsors or professionals knowingly provide faulty equipment, don’t post warning signs alerting riders to dangerous conditions, commit “willful or wanton disregard” for participant safety, or intentionally cause injury.

For this legal immunity, HB 1092 exacts on regulatory cost on four-wheeler sponsors and professionals: at their events and rental shops and trails, they must post signs with three-inch letters giving this warning:


Under South Dakota law, an off-road vehicle activity sponsor or an off-road vehicle professional is not liable for an injury to or the death of a participant in off-road vehicle activity resulting from an inherent risk of off-road vehicle activity as provided in this Act.

But does anyone read signs?
But who reads signs?

I’m assuming they’ll amend “this Act” to the new statutes they are writing up as SDCL 32-20-17 through 32-20-22. But off-road outfits won’t be printing those signs on 8.5″-by-11″ sheets of paper. At four inches per line, this warning could easily require a four-foot-tall sign. But hey, would you rather buy a couple $100 signs or pay out a couple $100,000 lawsuits?

If some legislators are willing to address the inherent risk of four-wheelers with a few warning signs, perhaps we can get them to settle for similar treatment of doctors providing medical services to transgender youth. The Legislature doesn’t want to ban four-wheelers, so why ban medical procedures? Just tell the doctors to put up signs showing the risks and side effects of certain drugs and operations and call it good!


  1. Porter Lansing 2020-01-28 11:16

    FIRST THOUGHT … Novstrup’s highly polluting go-carties are off road vehicles, aren’t they?

  2. happy camper 2020-01-28 11:23

    Oh gosh you’ll fit transgender in some way. I’m still uncertain what motivates Progressives pushing “medical intervention” and have continued to read on the subject. There certainly are conservatives like Andrew Sullivan who think it’s just politics and they are but pawns. “When Idealogues Come For The Kids” he makes some good points. Politics has pushed the treatment of these kids to “affirm” away from the more cautious approach of “watchful waiting” which absolutely has led to misdiagnosis and harm. Granted in South Dakota our numbers are small, but saving one kid from this insanity is worth it.

  3. Porter Lansing 2020-01-28 11:53

    Gays feel their place in progress is infringed upon by transgender kids. Ignoring trans issues by gay men is rampant. Besides the increased risk of violence and other threats, the stress created by transphobia can cause negative emotional consequences which may lead to substance abuse, running away from home (in minors), and a higher rate of suicide.

  4. Adam 2020-01-28 11:59

    4 wheeling is a privilege not a right. It’s better than riding a horse, and that’s about it.

    In the Black Hills, old people ride the trails for 5 minutes, and then stop to drink a Bud Light… and then they ride for 5 minutes before they again stop to drink another Bud Light, together. They spend the whole afternoon getting drunk in the BH while ‘4 wheeling.’

    Meanwhile, most-all the non-Boomers are kayaking, hiking and/or climbing around.

    Let Boomer Drunks kill and injure themselves as well as each other, while 4 wheeling, just be sure not to hold ANYONE ELSE responsible for any of their damages or injuries – and I am OK with that.

  5. happy camper 2020-01-28 15:42

    The gay people I know simply feel protective towards trans kids because we had similar uncertainties over gender and didn’t fit the boxes like the straight kids. This young gay guy I just met is gender fluid and dates transgenders he identifies as gay out of simplicity but his identity is more complicated. So when I explained to him my concern about starting kids down a path when so many (60 to 90 percent) desist, he understood. I think it’s fine for all to have opinions, but they should be based on fact, not politics. When the American Association of Pediatrics moved to “affirm” rather than practice “watchful waiting” a respected sex researcher went through their findings. There’s just not the proof to start early transition. I’m not sure this bill is right either. Possibly too rigid, but it has come about because there can be no logical questioning of treatment methods or one is branded transphobic. This just isn’t right so many kids are coming forth to say they regret easy transition, especially those who had rapid onset mostly young lesbians on the autism spectrum. The link that follows is Cantor’s fact check of the AAP decision. There are many more questions than answers that lead me to support caution before irreversible action.

  6. Porter Lansing 2020-01-28 15:59

    @ConCamp … This is off topic. I’ll post on another thread.

  7. Debbo 2020-01-28 20:47

    I’m getting the impression that the SDGOP is focused on protecting male dominated activities while ratcheting up control over women and LBTGs.
    Hmmm. 🤔🤔🤔

  8. Adam 2020-01-28 23:16

    Debbo, yup, I totally agree. They want to regulate how people use their body parts, but not 4-wheeling. NEVER 4-wheeling! How could anyone really even so much as suggest that ‘we should have 4-wheeling laws and liabilities’?!

    We should prolly also get rid of all sales taxes associated with 4-wheelers and 4-wheeling – because Murica Is Freedom. Ya know? It just makes sense. Duh.

  9. Clyde 2020-01-30 08:59

    How is it that there are idiot laws like this being pushed through in this state but we can’t get someone to sponsor and publicize the requirement of all CAFO’s to capture their manure methane and run a generator off of it feeding power into the grid. This would be actually popular and beneficial for all concerned except the CAFO owners while this ridiculous absolving of liability law dose nothing for anyone other than the 4 wheel folks ruining the black hills.

    Man are things effed up in this state!

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