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Are ATVs safe for children and youth?

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are motorized ride-on vehicles with 4 wheels and large, low-pressure tires. They are designed to be used by one person in off-road areas, not on public roads. ATVs can weigh over 300 kg (661 lbs) and can reach high speeds.

Children and youth younger than 16 years old should not operate ATVs.  Young people don’t have the knowledge, strength, good judgment, and maturity to be able to operate these vehicles safely. Combined with a tendency to be impulsive and take risks, youth are at high risk of injury when using ATVs.

However many kids do use them, especially in rural or remote areas. And each year, many children and youth are seriously injured or even killed while riding an ATV.

The most commonly cited causes of ATV crashes are:

  • driver error,
  • carrying a passenger
  • poor judgment, and
  • loss of control.

Did you know?

  • In Canada, nearly 40% of ATV-related deaths are among children uand youth under 19 years old.
  • More than 33%  of serious injuries requiring hospitalization from ATV crashes are among children under 19 years old.

Injury is most likely to happen when the ATV isn’t used properly. If you’re a parent who owns or operates an ATV, you can model safe behaviour for your older teens by following these guidelines:

Use only four-wheeled vehicles: Injuries are more likely to occur on three-wheeled ATVs, which are more unstable than four-wheeled vehicles. Three-wheeled ATVs are not recommended.

No passengers: Most ATVs are meant to be used by a single driver. Drivers of ATVS designed for single riders should never take on passengers. In general, passengers are not recommended on any ATV because they can affect the vehicle’s balance and make it hard for the driver to stay in control. Children and teens younger than 16 years old should never ride as passengers on ATVs.

Wear proper equipment: ATV drivers and passengers should always wear a government-certified safety helmet (such as a helmet meeting the Canadian Standards Association, Department of Transportation/Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, Snell or American National Standards Institute motorcycle helmet standards, not a bicycle helmet), eye protection, and proper clothing, such as boots, gloves and long pants.

Take training: ATV drivers should take an approved training course. The training requires you to pass a test.

Never use drugs or alcohol before or while using an ATV.

Are there laws in Canada about operating ATVs?

Laws governing ATV use are different in each province and territory.

  • Most provinces require ATV drivers to wear helmets.
  • Most provinces have restrictions for young drivers. Some require, for example, that drivers under 14 years be supervised by an adult.

Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Injury Prevention Committee

Last Updated: August 2012