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All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

ATV Safety

​​​​​​​​​Off-road vehicles, like all terrain vehicles (ATV’s) and snowmobiles are more popular than ever in Alberta. With this comes an increase in serious injury and death. Between 2010 and 2014, 85 Albertans died while riding ATVs. Of those 85, 17 were 16 years and younger. Because more males ride ATVs, more males are injured or killed than females.​ Head injuries are a major cause of ATV related death, leading to more than 40% of deaths in Alberta.​

ATVs are for adults

Children under 16 shouldn't operate any size of ATV. ATVs aren't toys—they are powerful, heavy machines. ATVs can go up to 105 km/h and can weigh up to 272 kg (600 lbs.).

It’s always important for parents to supervise their children. However, ATVs can be so dangerous that even supervising children under 16 isn’t enough. They don’t have the strength, skill, or ability to judge fast enough if something's dangerous.

What about ATVs that are marketed for children and youth?

There's no proof that using a smaller ATV is safer. Children younger than​ 16 still have a higher chance of getting hurt—even dying—when using an ATV. They are 2 to 5 times more likely than adults to be injured, even when riding “youth-sized” ATVs.

Three-wheeled ATVs aren't stable and should never be used. Medical experts agree that anyone under 16 shouldn't ride ATVs anytime, anywhere, any size.

How about riding as a passenger?

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children under 16 should never ride ATVs, even as a passenger. The biggest problem with passengers is that they're usually on ATVs that aren't designed and built to carry them. When a passenger rides on an ATV that's made for 1 person, it becomes more unstable and unpredictable. If an ATV is designed for passengers, those passengers should be 16 or older.

Aren’t ATVs safer than ever?

There's been pressure to design safer and more stable ATVs. While progress has been made, ATVs are still risky, especially at high speeds, at night, on steep hills, in areas you don’t know well, and when the driver is stunting or doing tricks. There's a higher chance of a serious ATV injury or even death if you drink alcohol, take other substances, or are distracted (e.g., talking or texting on a cell phone) while driving an ATV.

SMART Risk Strategies

Look First

  • Looking first means thinking ahead. You do this by learning about and understanding the risks and making a plan to manage them.
  • Keep your ATV in good repair. Make sure it has a working headlight, tail light, and muffler.
  • Ride during daylight hours and on flat or gently sloping terrain.
  • Respect the rights of others on the trails (like hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and animals).
  • Know what the possible hazards are in your riding area. If you don't know the area, find someone who does and ride with them the first few trips.
  • Obey posted signs and stay on the trails. Going off marked trails can mean coming face to face with the unexpected—like ditches, drop offs, cliffs, or trees.
  • Know the local weather conditions. Weather affects the trails.​

Wear the Gear

  • It is the law in Alberta​ that you wear an approved motorcycle or ATV helmet. Make sure that it fits snugly and is securely fastened.
  • Use eye protection, such as a helmet shield or riding goggles. Regular sunglasses don’t protect your eyes.
  • Wear suitable clothing, including boots, gloves, and sturdy clothing.

Get Trained

  • Take an ATV operator training course from a trained instructor. The Canada Safety Council offers ATV rider courses that include training on using controls, riding terrain, turning, and climbing hills.

Drive Sober

  • Drive responsibly and pay attention so that you're in control. Never use alcohol or drugs before or while riding an ATV. Refuse to carry or be a passenger on an ATV built for 1 person. Most ATVs are not designed to carry passengers and having passengers makes the vehicle less stable.

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Where can I find information about ATVs?

Current as of: February 7, 2018

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services