A young person under 18 years of age can certainly develop and expand his or her driving skills through preparation and practice, but parents should continually monitor them to determine if they have the strength, skills, and judgment necessary to safely operate an ATV. Safe riding requires an ability to anticipate, recognize and react to a variety of potential hazards. The key is to enjoy the sport while minimizing the risks involved. Important considerations include not only physical attributes such as size and strength, coordination and visual perception, but emotional maturity and the ability to make good decisions.
All ATVs carry a manufacturer’s minimum age recommendation warning label that makes a good starting point in helping choose an appropriate model. Kids under 16 should not drive a two-up vehicle because driving an ATV with a passenger on-board requires advanced handling skills. The major ATV manufacturers recommend that two-ups should also not be used to carry young children, or more than a single passenger. ATVs with engine sizes over 90 cubic centimeters (cc) are also not appropriate for young or inexperienced drivers because their weight is hundreds of pounds and they can reach speeds of over 70 mph.
Don’t bend the rules for safe fun on your ATV. All drivers and passengers should always wear a helmet, eye protection, and other protective gear. Most experienced drivers wear gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirts or jackets, and over-the-ankle boots for additional protection. Ride only on designated trails at a safe speed. Avoid driving on paved surfaces: pavement can seriously affect the handling and control of the machine.
While ATVs are great fun for every age, the sport comes with responsibility. Make sure your child is prepared and ready with some help from the ATV Safety Institute. You can find their booklet “Parents, Youngsters, and All-Terrain Vehicles” online and check out the readiness checklist provided there. There are ATV RiderCourse hands-on training courses available to the public nationwide. It’s simple to enroll in a half-day program by calling 800-887-2887 or visiting the site www.atvsafety.org to find a training program near you. It will be time well spent learning or refreshing the basic skills so necessary to enjoying this great sport safely.