ATVs aren’t quite the hazards they once were when three-wheelers were all the rage. Now, all-terrain vehicles have become a bit safer. But they’re still not immune to accidents, especially when kids are involved. In fact, 73 children under the age of 16 died in 2015 due to ATV accidents, some because they weren’t wearing protective gear, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports.
But ensuring your kids wear the proper helmets, over-the-ankle shoes, long sleeves, pants, and goggles will keep them safer on ATVs. You can also help them stay safe by teaching them to avoid doing these three dangerous things.
The 3 most dangerous things kids should never do on ATVs
Adults get injured while riding four-wheelers, but when you add young kids to the mix, it can get even more dangerous. About 30 percent of ATV-related deaths happen to young children. There are plenty of things kids should never do on these vehicles, but the three most dangerous involve adding a passenger, not wearing proper safety equipment, and riding on an adult-sized ATV.
All-terrain vehicles are built for one passenger only. Children driving one should never try to bring a friend with them. Adding a second person can throw off the vehicle’s balance, which can lead to loss of control, rollovers, and serious or fatal injuries.
Another mistake some kids have made is failing to wear safety equipment when operating ATVs. According to Today, an 11-year-old died after taking his family’s ATV for a ride. He wasn’t wearing protective equipment and had no supervision. Also, the vehicle was too big for his size. When he sharply turned to avoid driving into the road, the machine rolled twice, crushing him.
Kids should always operate ATVs designed for their stature. A child trying to ride an adult-sized unit is a disaster in the making. The machine is too heavy and harder for children to control, and it can cause much more damage if an accident occurs.
Which type of ATVs should your kids use?
Adult-sized ATVs, such as the Polaris Sportsman 450, are meant for adults, who are larger and weigh more than young children. Teenagers aged 16 and up can use adult-sized machines, but younger kids shouldn’t even try. In fact, manufacturers make ATVs specifically for young kids.
Children aged 12 to 15 can ride one that’s 70 to 90cc, close to an adult-sized model but can travel only around 15 to 30 mph. Kids aged 6 to 11 should ride one that’s under 70cc, which usually travels around 10 to 15 mph. The slower speeds allow for better control, but other precautions are still necessary.
Kids should also drive ATVs with a single-speed automatic transmission, PennState Extension explains. Parents can also limit the speed using controls. Plus, there are remote shutoff devices, exhaust restrictors, and even throttle limiters to keep kids safe while they practice riding skills.
Safety rules kids should always follow
Each state has its own set of rules that you and your kids will need to follow when riding ATVs. But as a good rule of thumb, your kids can follow certain safety practices every time they get on the vehicle.
They should make sure they’re always wearing protective clothing and a helmet with a face shield every time they ride an ATV. Also, they should operate it with adult supervision. Supervisors can view potential obstacles and alert the child to them before an accident happens.
Though children under 6 years old shouldn’t ride ATVs, companies such as Polaris make toy versions to help youngsters prepare for bigger machines later. Those who are older can get in on the fun by operating their own machines. You just have to make sure they’re driving a four-wheeler that’s the right size and wear the required safety equipment.