Is the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R Safe to Drive on the Street?

by Gabrielle DeSantis

Given that it has no doors and an optional roof, some might think that the 2021 Polaris Slingshot is a deathtrap. But then, it’s also not as exposed as a motorcycle, so it should be safer, right? With the Polaris Slingshot’s rising popularity, these kinds of safety questions and concerns are worth addressing. So, if you’ve wanted to get into one of these three-wheelers, here’s what you need to know about doing it safely.

2021 Polaris Slingshot R side | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Tackling the question of the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R’s safety requires understanding what it is and isn’t. That’s because, depending on what kind of vehicle it is, it will have to follow different safety regulations.

To start, the 2021 Polaris Slingshot isn’t legally considered a motorcycle in every state. But it’s also not a car, either. Instead, in most states, it falls into the same ‘autocycle’ category as vehicles like the Morgan 3-Wheeler and the Vanderhall Venice. Note that autocycles aren’t the same thing as trikes like the Can-Am Spyder. Autocycles have car-like controls, i.e., a steering wheel and pedals, and a partially or fully enclosed passenger compartment, Autotrader explains.

A closeup of an orange-and-blue 2021 Polaris Slingshot R's passenger's side
2021 Polaris Slingshot R passenger’s side closeup | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

So, what does this mean for the 2021 Polaris Slingshot R in terms of safety features? Because it’s not a car, it’s not required to offer things like airbags, advanced driver-assistance features, crash structures, or a backup camera. That being said, that last feature is available on some 2021 Slingshot trims. Also, while it lacks airbags, the Slingshot does have seatbelts, standard traction control, ABS, and roll bars. And while there aren’t any doors, there are body panels and metal tubes between you and the next lane.

In short, while the 2021 Polaris Slingshot doesn’t have all of the safety features of a car, it doesn’t lack them completely. And although wearing an airbag-equipped motorcycle jacket wouldn’t necessarily hurt, it’s not strictly necessary.

Should you have to a helmet while driving the 2021 Polaris Slingshot?

The rear view of an orange-and-blue 2021 Polaris Slingshot R in a parking lot with a Jeep SUV in the background
2021 Polaris Slingshot R rear | Matthew Skwarczek, MotorBiscuit

Speaking of motorcycle jackets, there is another 2021 Polaris Slingshot safety question worth considering. And that’s whether or not its occupants need to wear motorcycle helmets.

On its end, Polaris says to “always wear a full-face helmet that meets or exceeds established safety standards when operating your Slingshot.” And I strongly recommend the same, both for safety and added wind protection, even with a windshield in place. But if it’s a question of legal necessity, that depends on where you live, The Drive says.

If your state considers the 2021 Polaris Slingshot to be a motorcycle, you have to follow the state motorcycle helmet laws. However, each state’s helmet laws are different: in some states, they’re compulsory, while in others, there are age requirements. A few, including my home state of Illinois, don’t even have helmet laws, Law Tigers reports. Illinois, though, does require eye protection, hence the windscreen. And if your state says that the Slingshot is an autocycle, then helmet laws are irrelevant.

To summarize, you might not have to wear a motorcycle helmet while driving or riding in a 2021 Polaris Slingshot. But it’s a very good idea to put one on anyway.

Is it safe?

With all of this in mind, is the 2021 Polaris Slingshot a safe vehicle to drive on the street?

Compared to a motorcycle, it’s distinctly safer, The Drive says. There’s physically more vehicle around you and the bodywork diverts a significant amount of wind. Plus, it does have traction control and those roll bars. However, the Slingshot isn’t quite as safe as a car, what with the lack of airbags and such.

But there’s one more thing worth mentioning. A few weeks ago, I was a passenger in a truck driving down the highway into Colorado. Just after passing through a massive thunderstorm, I spotted a Polaris Slingshot going in the opposite direction at speed, rooster-tails of spray wafting from its tires. And while it had a roof, the occupants were wearing what appeared to be full motorcycle rain gear.

The moral of that story is that driving the 2021 Polaris Slingshot is, like any motorcycle or car, a matter of personal comfort. If you don’t feel safe in it, don’t get in it or drive it. But it’s also not inherently unsafe, either. Just like driving any vehicle, operating a Slingshot requires care and a specific approach. Plus, the whole point of driving a Slingshot is to experience how open it is compared to a car. And that means, like with bikes and classic cars, accepting the lack of certain safety features.

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RELATED: Can You Daily Drive a Polaris Slingshot?

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