Like bicycles, motorcycles and snowmobiles, ATVs are designed to be controlled in part by the rider’s shifting body weight, both front and back, and side to side. While ATVs may seem deceptively stable and easy to operate, most children and youth are not physically or developmentally ready before age 16 to ride them safely.
And while ATV seats may seem large enough to take on a passenger, most are designed for single riders only. It is not wise to modify your ATV with after-market passenger seats or other implements which will change the weight distribution and stability of the machine, increasing the likelihood of tip-over and rollover accidents.
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If you choose to allow your children to ride ATVs, follow these basic safety precautions to reduce their risk:
- Train up. Children should take a proper course with a qualified instructor before they’re allowed to operate an ATV. The Canada Safety Council has courses for children as young as six.
- Ride the right size. It is critical that children under the age of 16 not ride adult-sized machines. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and limit children ages six to 11 to ATVs that are 70cc or smaller. Those ages 12 to 15 should ride ATVs no larger than 70–90cc. Children under the age of six should not ride ATVs.
- Suit up. Wear a helmet, eye protection, long pants, long sleeves, and gloves, for every ride.
- Ride only under close adult supervision.
- Ride by day. Even on familiar terrain, low light and reduced visibility will increase the chances of a mishap.