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Roughly 17% of off-road vehicle related deaths involve children under the age of sixteen and almost half of the children who have died in these accidents were under the age of twelve. The hazards that are inherent in driving ATVs and other off-road vehicles combined with the inexperience of young drivers can make them extremely dangerous. Education and the use of proper safety equipment can greatly reduce the risk of a tragedy, however, and off-road vehicle safety begins in the home through education and the establishment of clear rules regarding when and how these vehicles may be used.
Lack of License Requirement Leads to Complacency
Since ATV drivers are not required to obtain a license, it is far easier for parents to become complacent and to assume that their children are able to operate these vehicles in a responsible manner. The reality of the matter, however, is that inexperience and poor decision making are at the root of many ATV, snowmobile and other off-roading accidents.
Controlling these vehicles is often awkward and when children operate them at high speed, there is a significant chance of rollover and loss of control. Adults are more likely to exercise caution when driving ATVs, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics condemns allowing any child under the age of sixteen to operate one.
How to Promote ATV Safety
If you decide to allow your child to drive an ATV or other type of off-road vehicle, it is imperative that you take the time to educate your child and develop in him or her the safe habits needed to prevent and protect him or her from serious accidents. The following safety tips will greatly improve the chances that your family can enjoy ATV and off-roading activities with minimal risk.
- Children should be prohibited from using vehicles that are designed for adults. If you do choose to allow a child to operate an ATV, only allow him or her to ride one that is designed for children. This will greatly limit the risk of an accident due to the inability of the driver to control the vehicle.
- Children under the age of six should never be allowed to ride on an ATV and those under 12 should not be allowed to operate one.
- Teach your children at a young age to wear protective gear to protect their heads, face, eyes, hands and legs. You should seek out personal protection equipment that meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s guidelines. Ideal equipment includes a helmet, eyewear, long sleeved shirt, gloves, pants and boots.
- Make sure that your children always use seatbelts where available and do not permit them to transport more passengers than the vehicle is designed to carry.
- Avoid using off-road vehicles on paved roads. This exposes your children to other drivers and road hazards they may not be prepared to encounter.
- Consider enrolling your child in an ATV rider course to make sure that he or she understands how to maintain control of the vehicle.
ATV Safety Courses
Taking the time to go through an ATV safety course can go a long way toward keeping your child safe. These courses tend to be half a day long and cover topics such as how to inspect the vehicle for problems, handling quick turns, traveling over hills and varied terrains, avoiding or traveling over obstacles, the use of protective equipment, where the best places to ride are and how to avoid environmental hazards.
Parents are expected to be present if the driver is under twelve years of age and encouraged to tag along for those between twelve and sixteen.
There are also online courses available for those who wish to refresh their knowledge on ATV and off-road safety topics. Education is an integral part of off-road safety, so you should encourage your child to keep learning and honing his or her skills. For more information on ATV and off-road safety, you can visit any of the following resources.