(Photo Source: Specialty Vehicle Institute of America, ATV Safety Institute)
Youth operate all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) on farms and ranches and for recreational use. ATVs can be useful for work and a fun mode of transportation; however, injuries from ATV incidents continue to be problematic for farm and rural youth. In 2008, more than 37,000 youth under the age of 16 were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the country due to ATV-related injuries (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
Many of these incidents can be prevented by evaluating the youth’s readiness to operate an ATV by:
Adult supervision of youth ATV operators is essential to ensure that the youth adheres to rules, wears the proper protective equipment, and correctly operates the ATV. Controls such as throttle limiters, exhaust restrictors, and remote shut-off switches are available to assist adults when regulating beginning ATV operators.
Children under 6 should never be on an ATV, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most ATVs are labeled with a recommended age for that model. The recommended ages for Y-6 models (under 70cc engines) are 6 to 11 years old. The Y-12 models (70 to 90 cc engines) are 12 to 15 years old. However, some states many have specific rules regarding allowable age for operation of ATVs, so it is important to check your state for rules, and while the actual age is the easiest to identify, it should not be the only factor in determine when youth can ride.
Children develop at different rates, so consider each child’s cognitive and physical development when making a decision about their ability to operate an ATV. Cognitive and emotional development is related to the youth’s reasoning ability, memory, discipline, focus, and decision-making skills. Do not overestimate your child’s abilities when it comes to making decisions that will affect his safety. When assessing your child's cognitive development, determine her level of discipline and her understanding of cause and effect. Be sure that your child understands that if his behavior is unsafe or reckless, the consequence may be an injury or death. Discuss safety scenarios with your youth to ensure that he can provide sensible and safe reactions to the situation.
Physical development includes the youth's size, strength, visual acuity, and coordination. The following are a few measures you can take to determine if your child is physically ready to operate an ATV:
Youth should only operate a four-wheeled ATV because these are more stable and present less risk for a side overturn compared to a three-wheeled ATV.
For beginning riders, choose an ATV with a single speed automatic transmission, and do not equip the ATV with a carrier rack. A load on a carrier rack can shift and possibly alter the ATV’s center of gravity and decrease its stability. There is only one seat for the operator; therefore, passengers are not permitted on an ATV. The following chart is a guideline for the most appropriate-sized ATV engine compared to the youth’s age.
|Age of Operator||ATV Engine Size|
|Under 6 years of age||No operation recommended|
|Age 6 to 11||Under 70cc|
|Age 12 to 15||70 - 90cc|
|16 years and older||Over 90cc|
The most important piece of personal protective equipment for an operator is a helmet approved for ATV use. Helmets should be the correct size for the operator and approved for ATV use by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), U.S. Department of Transportation, or the Snell Memorial Foundation to ensure that it has been safety tested. If the helmet is not equipped with a face shield, wear an ANSI-approved pair of goggles or glasses with hard-coated polycarbonate lenses. When operating an ATV, the child should also wear gloves, boots, long-sleeved shirt or jacket, and long pants.
Teach your youth the location of the following ATV parts: parking brake, brakes, throttle, engine stop switch, and shift lever (if equipped). Prior to operating the ATV, follow these steps:
Teach youth the acronym BONE-C which outlines the following steps to properly start an ATV:
Youth should learn to safely operate an ATV in an approved safety training program.
Click HERE to be directed to ATVSafety.gov to do an online ATV safety training. ATVSafety.gov provides safety information, legislation regarding ATV use, state-specific information about regulations, and contact information for ATV safety training for adults and teens.
Click HERE to be directed to the ATV Safety Institute for more information about ATV safety and safety training classes in your area.
Click HERE to view a below from the ATV Safety Institute to learn more about their ATV safety training classes.
Youth ATV safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/62259/youth-atv-safety.
2008 annual report of ATV-related deaths and injuries. (2010). Consumer Product Safety Commission. Retrieved from http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia10/os/atv2008.pdf.
Farmwork with an ATV. (1999) Marshfield Clinic North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT). Retrieved from http://nagcat.org/proxy/MCRF-Centers-NFMC-NAGCAT-Guidelines-PDF-G1.1.pdf.
Murphy, D. & Harshman, W. (2005). ATVs and youth: Matching children and vehicles. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://www.agsafety.psu.edu/factsheets/E45.pdf.
Parents, youngsters, and all-terrain vehicles (2009) ATV Safety Institute. Retrieved from http://www.atvsafety.org/downloads/pya.pdf.
Schwab, C., Miller, L. & Satre, S. (2008) ATV safety for farm work, recreation. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Safe Farm. Retrieved from https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=5065