Riding all-terrain vehicles is a fun outdoor activity for many children—but as accidents increase, parents are urged to use caution if buying ATVs for the holidays.
A recent report from Marshfield Clinic Research Institute revealed ATV injuries among children are on the rise, and are likely linked to the pandemic, as children got a head start on summertime activities when schools closed early.
“Children are home more than they were in previous years,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee. “More home time means more opportunities to use ATVs, and unfortunately that means more opportunities for accidents.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 40,000 children under 16 are treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries each year.
When shopping for an ATV this holiday season, Fisher said, it’s crucial to look for one that’s an appropriate size.
“ATVs, based on the size, can be a lot more powerful than people anticipate,” he explained. “There are some that are designed for younger riders and for smaller riders. Make sure the piece of equipment is sized right for the child.”
Children should be able to rest their feet on the footrest and easily reach the handles. Virginia restrictions limit children under 12 to ATVs no more than 70 cubic centimeters, and children 12 to 16 are limited to no more than 90 cc.
Andy Seibel, also a member of the VFBF safety committee, said buying proper-fitting safety gear, especially helmets, also is important.
“Sometimes when we see children with helmets, they’ll actually spin around on their head because they were purchased as an adult helmet instead of a child’s helmet,” Seibel said. “Make sure you actually get something that’ll fit your child.”
When it comes to driving an ATV, Fisher and Seibel said parents need to watch their children, ensuring they know how to operate it safely, and demonstrate safe riding themselves.
“If they see you riding without safety glasses or a helmet, then they’re going to think it’s OK to ride without them,” Seibel said.
He also strongly encouraged parents to enroll children in a safety class.
“Going through a safety class, hopefully the kids will see their peers riding safely, learn some things, and hopefully we’ll be able to cut down on the number of accidents in Virginia.” To find safety classes near you, contact your local ATV dealer or Virginia Cooperative Extension agent