All-terrain vehicles: Safety tips for families

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are motorized vehicles with 3 or 4 wheels and large, low-pressure tires. They are designed to be used by a single operator in off-road areas, not on public roads. They can weigh up to 272 kg (600 lbs).

ATVs are not safe for children and young teenagers, who don?t have the strength or skill to handle them properly. Still, many kids do use them, especially in rural or remote areas. And each year, many children and youth are seriously injured or even killed while riding an ATV.

Did you know?

In Canada, nearly 25% of ATV-related deaths are among children under 15 years old.

More than one-third of serious injuries from ATV crashes are among children under 15 years old.

ATV injuries have been reported in children as young as 1 year old.

How can ATVs be used safely?

You?re more likely to be injured on an ATV if you don?t use it properly. If you?re a parent who owns or operates an ATV, you can model safe behaviour by following these guidelines:

Age and experience:

Driver error and loss of control are common causes of ATV crashes. Children younger than 16 years old should not operate ATVs. They don?t have the strength, skills or experience to handle ATVs safely.

Four-wheeled vehicles: Injuries are more likely to occur on three-wheeled ATVs, which are more unstable than four-wheeled vehicles. Three-wheeled ATVs are not recommended.


Most ATVs are meant to be used by a single driver. Passengers are not recommended because they can affect the balance and make it hard for the driver to stay in control. Children younger than 16 years old should never ride as passengers on ATVs.

Proper equipment:

ATV drivers and passengers should always wear an approved helmet for ATVs or motorcycles (such as a helmet meeting the Canadian Standards Association, Department of Transportation/Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, Snell or American National Standards Institute motorcycle helmet standards, not a bicycle helmet), eye protection, and proper clothing, such as boots, gloves and long pants.

Training: ATV drivers should take an approved training course, such as the one offered by the Canada Safety Council.

Drugs and alcohol: Drivers should not operate an ATV after using drugs or alcohol.

Laws governing ATV use are different in each province and territory.

Most provinces require ATV drivers to wear helmets.

Most provinces have restrictions for young drivers. Some require, for instance, that drivers under 14 years be supervised by an adult.

Canada Safety Council ATV Rider?s Course. Developed by the CPS Injury Prevention Committee