Are ATVs safe for children and youth?
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are motorized ride-on vehicles with 4 wheels and large, low-pressure tires. Most models 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 especially high risk of injury when using ATVs.
However, many children and youth do use them, primarily for recreational purposes – especially in rural or remote areas. Each year, many children and youth are seriously injured or even killed while riding on an ATV.
While these vehicles basic design pose serious risks, the most common causes of ATV crashes are:
- driver error
- carrying a passenger
- judgment error
- lost control of ATV
Did you know?
- In Canada, nearly 34% of ATV-related deaths are among children and youth under 16 years old, even though they represent a small portion of all ATV drivers or passengers.
- More than 33% of serious injuries requiring hospitalization from ATV crashes are among children under 19 years old.
- Children under 16 years of old are more likely than adults to suffer a head injury or bone fracture in an ATV mishap.
An injury is more likely to happen when an ATV is not operated according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re a parent who owns or has access to an ATV, model safe behaviours 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 should be avoided.
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. Passengers are generally 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.
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. Helmets can reduce fatal head injuries by 50%. Eye protection, and proper clothing, such as boots, gloves and long pants are also recommended.
Take training: All ATV drivers should take an approved training course. The training should require the driver to pass a test demonstrating both skills and knowledge.
No one should 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.
More information from the CPS:
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
- Injury Prevention Committee
Last Updated: July 2017