Should Kids Drive ATVs?

A look at All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and Child Safety

ATVs are a fun pastime for many throughout the United States. Adults enjoy ATVs for both occasional day use and long trips, sometimes for hunting or camping in far-flung locations. Kids enjoy using ATVs, too, often building their coordination and confidence while relishing time outside.

But should kids drive ATVs unattended? And if so, at what age?

The safety laws around ATV use vary by state (you can find a complete list of state requirements here). Some states, like Wyoming, only require an individual under the age of 18 wear a helmet. Others, like New Jersey, require an individual to be at least 14 years old to operate an ATV. Still other states require safety certificates from accredited ATV safety courses.

Safety should always be at the forefront of any ATV owner's mind, especially if the driver is a minor. There are certain emotional, reasoning and physical developments that younger children must have in order to safely operate an ATV. The ATV Safety Institute offers helpful checklists to aid parents in determining if their son or daughter is ready to operate an ATV. Another option? Enrolling an older child in an ATV safety course. There are free courses available online, also through the ATV Safety Institute. By completing a fun, interactive course, your child will be empowered and enjoy safely riding an ATV for years to come.

The ATV Safety Institute also recommends that all drivers "regardless of age" adhere to the following guidelines to promote safety while driving an all-terrain vehicle:

  1. Drivers and riders should always wear a DOT-compliant helmet and goggles. The institute also recommends riders wear long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants, as well as over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  2. Because ATVs are designed to be driven off-road, they should not be used on paved roads except when crossing.
  3. Never operate an ATV while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  4. Drivers should be mindful of how many passengers their ATV can safely carry. If an ATV is built for one, that means no passengers.
  5. Size is important. Choose an ATV that's the correct size for the driver's age and stature.
  6. Only ride on designated trails and at safe speeds.
  7. Lastly, the Institute recommends supervising all riders younger than 16 years of age. However, if you feel that your child is ready physically, mentally and emotionally, then follow your state's guidelines.