All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and other off-highway vehicles (OHVs) have become a big part of many families’ lives, both for recreation and work-related activities. They can also be fun to drive, and naturally children are eager to try them out. This can be a great opportunity for parents to model safe behaviour and explain that just like driving cars, ATVs need adult skills and knowledge.
Injury experts agree that children younger than 16 years of age do not have the physical development or cognitive ability to safely drive these machines. If the vehicle is designed to carry a passenger, drive with great care, particularly with young children who may have difficulty holding on during sudden turns, or on bumpy roads. Also, young children do not have the strength to hold on for very long.
In Canada, 25 per cent of all ATV-related deaths are among children 15 years of age or younger. Also, injury rates have gone up by 50 per cent, probably because many more Canadians are using these machines than in the past. The group that represents all Canadian children’s doctors (the Canadian Paediatric Society), and some provincial doctors' associations as well, have spoken out about the dangers of children under 16 years of age driving any off-highway vehicles. They have seen the severe injuries and tragic deaths first hand.
Once a child reaches 16 years of age, appropriate training classes are a great way to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence required to safety operate an off-highway vehicle. Helmets are also important for all drivers and on every ride (approved for ATV or motorcycle use). It’s not easy for children to be patient, but this approach may prevent serious injury or even death.