Not long ago, my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. Already, my other half wants to know when our little boy will be old enough for a Power Wheels. Considering our son can’t roll over yet, the Power Wheels is a few years off. But Mama ain’t no fool. I know in just a couple years after that both of them will come to me, begging for my blessing to go pick out a pair of matching quads.
And that, my friends, freaks me out.
I had always planned on being a mom that allowed my child to take part in activities that had the potential to cause bumps and bruises. What is childhood, after all, without a set of constantly scraped knees? But ATV’s have the very real potential to cause more than bumps. They can cause paralyzing injuries, broken limbs and even death. According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, nearly 30,000 children are treated for ATV injuries in emergency rooms each year. That’s an average of nearly 80 per day!
If you do an internet search for “children’s ATVs,” or a similar term, tribute videos to children who have lost their lives while riding quads, and written account of ATV tragedies, are some of the first items to pop up. So, I took the time to read and watch much of this material and it led me to one major conclusion: as with anything else that is dangerous, children must be educated and supervised. Beyond good parenting and a sense of respect for power and dange,, kids must be equipped with the correct equipment, safety gear and a sense of respect for power and danger.
Which begs the question: just what is the “right equipment?”
ATV’s for children should be purchased according to the child’s age and size. While positioned on the seat, a child’s feet should comfortably reach the foot rests while their arms extend all the way to the handlebars. When checking size, make sure that your little buckaroo can easily reach to turn the handlebars fully, in both directions, and shift their weight to assist in turns without losing balance. A good indicator for physical readiness may be whether or not the child is able to confidently control and 2-wheeler bicycle. Minus the training wheels.
In regards to engine size, many manufacturers recommend a quad under 70 cc’s for children ages 6 to 11, 70 to 90 cc’s for those 12 to 15 and over 90 cc’s once kids reach the 16 year milestone.
After sizing has been established, parents need to evaluate their kid’s maturity. Think about whether or not your child is mature enough to know their limits. Will they stop when they’re unsure of how to maneuver around an obstacle and ask for help? Do they understand where they are, and aren’t allowed to ride? If you feel that your child is able to understand the dangers of not riding safely, they’re definitely on the right track.
And if the final decision is to allow children to ride, it is our responsibility as parents to always supervise children while they are riding ATV’s. Make sure kids know that riding without a helmet, long pants and a long shirt is never acceptable. Most importantly, however, take the time to teach your child how to ride. Just as when they learn to drive a car, kids must learn to respect the power and danger of an ATV, because the fun of ATV’s doesn’t come without risk.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 16 not operate any size ATV, the final decision is up to parents. Will I allow my child to ride before his sweet 16? The answer is yes. However, the choice for your family may be different.
In my mind, the decision is hinged on the idea that there is involved in everyday action from crossing the street to riding in a car. Thus, I see children riding quads notjust as a risk, but as an opportunity to teach personal responsibility, safety and respect for danger. However, I also see it as a great bonding opportunity for responsible, motorsports-loving families like ours. Don’t think I won’t be yelling at him to slow down every thirty seconds, though. I’m still his mom, after all, and that’s what moms do.