RV Articles

The Parents' Guide to ATVs

Many of us have fond memories of riding around on an ATV as kids. It's still fun, but if not driven properly it can be a dangerous vehicle, especially if you're young and don't have much driving experience. AIS RV would like to ask you to read the following article to help manage their child's and young friends safety while operating an ATV.

Handling an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) is a big responsibility. You may think your child is ready for that responsibility, but before she climbs aboard an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and rides off, there are some safety precautions you should take into consideration.

Assessing Your Child's Readiness

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than one-third of all ATV accidents involve children under the age of sixteen. You need to objectively assess your child's abilities to ensure she's ready to handle the responsibility of an ATV. Body size, weight, strength, coordination and maturity must all be considered.

To help you objectively assess your child's abilities, ask yourself the following questions:
Can your child:

    • Ride a bicycle, handle a skateboard or skate easily?
    • Read?
    • Catch a ball with hands rather than arms?
    • Participate in vigorous physical activity without tiring quickly?
    • Assemble a puzzle?
    • Follow detailed instructions?
    • Understand the reason for safety rules?

If you answer "no" to more than one of these items, you may want to wait until your child is a bit older before allowing them to operate an ATV.

Choosing the Right Size ATV

Once you've determined the child is ready, it's important to choose a vehicle that is appropriate for her. According to CPSC and other child safety organizations, the biggest issue facing the ATV industry is that of children riding vehicles meant for adults that are too big and powerful for them to operate properly.

A rough guideline to follow is:

    • children 6 to 12 years of age: 70 cubic centimeters (engine size)
    • children 12 to16 years of age: 70 to 90 cc
    • children 16 years and older: 90 cc plus

These are only guidelines, so be sure to check that your child has the strength to handle the ATV and is the right size for the vehicle.

When sitting on the ATV, both the child's feet should rest firmly on the footrests. Her hands should wrap around the handlebars while keeping the elbows at a 90 degree angle this will allow the extra reach needed to turn the handlebars. Be sure she is not leaning forward in order to make the reach easier. She should be able to stand on the footrests with a couple of inches clearance between her body and the seat of the vehicle.

Protective Gear

It may not be as cool for her to wear the safety gear as she'd like, but insisting on proper gear is a lifesaver for kids. Helmets are most important, according to the 4-H Community ATV Safety Program, the leading cause of ATV injuries and death is head trauma caused by not wearing helmets. Your child should also wear goggles or a helmet visor, long pants, protective shoes or boots and a long-sleeved shirt or jacket.

The helmet should fit snugly and squarely without sliding around when the head is moved. The cheek and brow pads should touch her cheeks and temples. To test the helmet, fasten the chinstraps and try moving the helmet with your hands to ensure it fits tightly enough. When the helmet is removed, there shouldn't be red marks, which would indicate the fit is too tight and may be uncomfortable for the rider.

Learning to Ride

Taking a class is a good idea for riders of all ages and levels of experience. The ATV Safety Institute offers hands-on classes across the nation. This class is usually free with the purchase of a new ATV. In the class, students learn about the mechanics of the machine, proper riding position and technique, and how to ride courteously and protect the environment.

If you don't have access to a class, be sure to thoroughly go through the owner's manual with the child so she can learn the mechanics of the machine and the manufacturer recommendations. Then find a safe place to practice turning, stopping, accelerating and crossing rough terrain. If you have your own ATV you can help by demonstrating the right moves. Always stress safety as a number-one priority.

Preparing for Trouble

We don't want to think about our children getting into an emergency situation with their vehicle, but teaching them circumstances to avoid and recovery techniques can save their lives.

  • Tipping
    If the ATV is tipping, it is recommended the rider dismount to the side and roll away as quickly as possible to avoid being crushed by the vehicle. Discuss with your child the circumstances that could cause the ATV to roll and how to avoid them.
  • Collision
    One of the leading causes of fatality accidents involving ATVs is collision with other motor vehicles. Stress to your children that it is not safe for them to ride on the roads, not only is the risk of collision with an automobile greater, but since ATVs have no rear differential they are more difficult to turn on pavement and easier to roll over.
  • Getting thrown
    If the child is thrown from the vehicle, she should tuck her limbs in and roll away from the direction of travel. Then she should carefully ensure she is okay before attempting to stand up and retrieve the vehicle.
  • Some General Advice
  • Never ride double on an ATV
  • Always practice care for the environment
  • Always supervise young riders
  • Always be courteous to others
  • Ask permission before riding on another's land
  • Obey laws and regulation

ATVs are safer when operated correctly by a person able to handle the responsibility. Your child will have more fun if she is educated and safe, and you'll feel better knowing she is fully prepared for anything she may encounter.

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