I might not be a “cool” farm mom by already deciding to not allow my kids drive all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) until they have their driver’s licenses at 16 or older, but this is something I will not budge on. I have a background as a pediatric operating room nurse and I’ve been called into the OR too many times for head injuries and the like for kids who have gotten into ATV accidents. The fact is that most injuries are not accidents and can be predicted and prevented—accidents are the #1 killer of children and youth in Canada (more than all other diseases combined).
Although ATVs can be viewed as fun and for recreation, these are still powerful vehicles and need to be operated responsibly and I believe kids just don’t have the cognitive and physical ability to operate these vehicles safely. There are things to be wary of for anyone driving ATVs such as uneven terrain, animals and people wandering around, and looking out for other equipment and do children have the judgment to look out for these things?
In my province of Alberta, there were 100 ATV-related deaths from 2002 to 2008, and 18 of those fatalities occurred to children under 16 years of age.
Children younger than 16 years should not operate ATVs, anytime, anywhere, any size. Children should never ride as passengers on ATVs. Most ATVs are designed for a single rider, and no passenger of any age should ever be taken on board. – Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons
The following organizations are also in agreement with the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons: the Canadian Paediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Pediatric Surgical Association, the Canadian Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, Safe Kids Canada and Safe Kids USA.
- On Canadian farms 1/3 of agricultural machinery injuries in children are related to ATV use 
- ATV deaths are the 4th most common injury-related death in Canada 
- The risk of death is 6 times higher on an ATV when compared to riding in a conventional vehicle 
- Half of all fatalities are caused by the ATV rolling and flipping, which can easily occur when drivers over-correct steering at high speeds. 
- 13% of fatalities in farm kids in an 18 year period in Canada were related to ATVs 
- Four out of every 10 people treated each year in emergency rooms in the U.S. for ATV injuries are under age 16 
- There is little evidence to suggest that smaller youth models are safer when used by children 
- Driver error and loss of control are the most commonly cause ATV accidents 
- Nearly 25% of those killed in ATV crashes in Canada are under 15 years old 
- More than 1/3 of those seriously injured in ATV crashes are under 15 years old 
- Over 90% of youth under 16 who suffered ATV-related injuries were operating a vehicle recommended for an older age group
With my nursing history and the fact that I cannot deny the statistics and evidence-based research regarding ATV use in children and youth, I formally apologize to my children for not allowing them to operate ATVs until they are 16 with their driver’s licenses. Maybe, just maybe, when you’re 14, have your learner’s permits and you are 100% supervised and instructed by your dad. But who knows what legislation will be like 10-12 years from now!
If your kids are using ATVs, that’s a personal decision, I’d just encourage you to ensure that they are using them safely. Check out ATV Safety by Farm Safety Just 4 Kids and these tips from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.
1. Too Young to Drive Too Young to Ride’ ATV Safety Campaign Summary Report http://www.parachutecanada.org/downloads/policy/Too_Young_to_Drive_Too_Young_to_Ride.pdf
2. Preventing injuries from all-terrain vehicles http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/preventing-injury-from-atvs
3. Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons’ position statement on the use of all-terrain vehicles by children and youth https://www.caps.ca/files/position_statement_use_of_atv_by_children_and_youth.pdf
4. Concern rises over preventable ATV injuries among children http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/4918.asp
5. Agriculture Fatalities in Canada 1990-2008 http://www.cair-sbac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/CAIR-booklet-blue-ENFin.pdf
6. ATV safety for farm work, recreation http://nasdonline.org/document/1274/d001072/atv-safety-for-farm-work-recreation.html
7. Preventing injuries from all-terrain vehicles http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/preventing-injury-from-atvs#ref23
8. Safety Up! On ATV use http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/All/aet12180