Youth and ATVs: Is It Worth the Risk?

Kids—including teens—are not small adults. Their brains haven’t fully formed yet, so they make lots of mistakes. They can’t always accurately judge the risk they are in or what they need to do to keep themselves or others safe, especially on powerful machines. Children are also often tempted to push the limits of what they know is allowed and frequently have trouble controlling impulses. This is exactly why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens younger than 16 years of age should not use all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

This isn’t just crying wolf: on average, 79 children younger than 16 years are killed using ATVs every year. Tens of thousands of children are injured severely enough to be seen in an emergency department, meaning these kids are suffering more than just bumps and bruises.

Even the smaller youth-model ATVs pose risks. They can travel at high speeds and weigh hundreds of pounds. Unlike a car, there are no seat belts or doors, so one bounce on rough terrain can throw a driver off the ATV or cause the ATV to roll over, crushing the driver. These factors make it hard for children and teens to respond in ways that allow them to be safe while riding ATVs.

Mistakes happen, and on ATVs, they happen fast. As parents, your role is to protect your kids enough so they can get back up again after making those mistakes. If you choose to allow your children to use ATVs, there are ways to help make the activity safer.

Start off right: Choose a youth model ATV designed for your child’s age (adult models are not safe for children younger than 16 years). Enroll your child in a hands-on training course.

Safety first: Only allow one person per ATV (no passengers). Wear recommended safety gear: a helmet certified by the Department of Transportation, ANSI, or the Snell Foundation, boots, gloves, goggles, and long pants and sleeves.

Off-road only: Use ATVs only on off-road terrain, never on paved surfaces or public roads of any type.

More ATV safety tips available at www.preventchildinjury.org/toolkits/atv-safety.

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