All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are a fun way for families to savor the outdoors. Indeed, ATVs can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and young children may safely drive them. However, choosing the right size ATV for your children is very important. It’s essential that you restrict access to the vehicle until your kids understand how to operate the controls.
ATVs are off-road vehicles outfitted with small but powerful engines, designed to navigate a variety of terrain types. These vehicles enable users to cover hundreds of miles of rough surface within days, often at speeds up to 70 mph. They come in different sizes with a range of motors that vary in power capability. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), children under 16 deemed capable of driving an ATV should be provided with a smaller model, with speeds limited accordingly.
Parents are the best at determining their children’s abilities. Physical and emotional development are the best clues when determining whether or not your child should operate an ATV.
When choosing the right size ATV for your children, experts recommend a few considerations. First, kids should be matched with a machine that offers no fewer than three inches of clearance between their pants’ seat and the ATV’s seat when standing. Further, the child must be able to grip the handlebars and move them all the way to the left and right, in addition to operating the throttle and brake lever with one hand. Finally, if the child can control a bike without any problems, then it may be a good time to try an ATV.
Another matter to keep in mind is emotional development. A child should be able to grasp the consequences of their actions and demonstrate self control before riding an ATV. There are rules for operating these vehicles, especially on various terrain types, so a young operator should learn the importance these requirements through a safety course. Notably, some 25 percent of all ATV injuries involve children who are under age 16.
There are two types of ATVs available: three- and four-wheel models. By far, four-wheel ATVs are the safest because they provide more balance and stability. In some places, new three-wheel ATVs have been banned because they are much more dangerous.
Additionally, the CSPC has issued guidelines to help parents choose an ATV for their children based on age and engine size. Children aged six to 11 should use an ATV with an engine under 70 cc. Children 12 to 15 can operate an ATV with a 70–90 cc engine. Only teens 16 and above should operate an adult ATV with an engine up to 700 cc.
If you believe that your child can safely operate an ATV, there are a number of ways you can make their experience safer. First, outfit the ATV with lights and reflectors to increase visibility. Second, insist that your child operate the ATV responsibly and only in the presence of an adult. Third, stay off of public roads; they are not designed for ATVs. Finally, only one person should ride on an ATV that is designed for one individual. There are two-person models available, but these usually should be restricted to adult riders only. Also, before you head out, ensure that the ATV is in top working order. Lubricate the chassis and make sure a fresh belt is installed (if equipped).
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Image courtesy of Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.