ATV safety proves critical for kids

by Katelin Whiddon

All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) are very popular in Arkansas, and they can also be a leading cause of injuries and deaths in children.

Nearly 40 percent of all ATV accident victims are under the age of 16. Therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no one under the age of 16 ride an ATV. Due to their smaller physical size, immaturity and lack of strength required to handle an ATV, children under the age of 16 are four times more likely to have injuries that require services by emergency departments.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed ATVs one of the most dangerous products they oversee. The AAP conducted a study on ATV accidents in a Level I Trauma hospital between 2004-2009 and found that the majority (61 percent) of victims’ parents acknowledged that these were unsafe under the age of 16. Eighty percent of those injured had adult permission, and 0 percent had any type of ATV training prior to using these machines. This speaks volumes for the need for safety education with the use of ATVs.

There are many great resources on ATV safety and tips online. One credible website is, which lists the golden rules for the use of all terrain vehicles. One of the most important safety tips is to always wear appropriate safety gear. The necessary safety gear includes a DOT-approved helmet, goggles, long sleeves and pants, boots and gloves.  ATVs are designed to be off-road vehicles; they are not recommended for paved roads unless crossing lawfully and safely.

No vehicles, including ATVs, should be used while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Some all terrain vehicles are designed for two people, otherwise, no more than one person should be on an ATV at a time. Riders under the age of 16 should never be on an ATV without an adult. Free e-courses on safety are available at as well as a free pre-ride inspection checklist.

As parents, we have to keep our children safe and also teach them how to practice safety.  Sometimes, not letting our children do what they want to do or how they want to do it is not the easiest route; the use of ATVs with these safety guidelines (or the non-use of ATVs) is certainly challenging.

Taking the time to review the above mentioned websites will help you in making decisions that are best for your family. ATV safety is an important topic to discuss with your healthcare provider. A great time to do that is during the teen wellness check-ups. You and your family’s safety are important.


A native of Conway, Katelin Whiddon is a family nurse practitioner at Central Arkansas Pediatrics. She and her husband, Daniel, have two daughters. A graduate of the University of Central Arkansas, she has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.