The rise in popularity of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) is accompanied by a rise in catastrophic injury. Off-highway vehicles (OHVs), including ATVs and snowmobiles, pose significant risks, including death, to child drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

Problem: Child and youth drivers

Like cars, ATVs are motorized vehicles that require adult skills and judgment to operate safely. ATVs can travel up to speeds of 105 km/h and weigh up to 227 kilograms, approximately 500 pounds.

Parachute recognizes that while ATVs and snowmobiles pose a degree of risk to all riders, the risks are greater for children and youth. 

The Canadian Paediatric Society notes that children and youth are at special risk for OHV injuries and deaths as they lack the knowledge, physical development, or cognitive and motor ability to safely drive these machines. Also, young children do not have the strength to hold on for very long.

According to data from the Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, serious injuries have occurred to children in recreational areas, on roads, highways and farms. 

Solutions

Parachute supports injury prevention measures including legislating age-appropriate OHV usage, driver education, the proper use of protective equipment as well as banning passengers.

Legislating age-appropriate usage

Parachute joins a number of injury prevention organizations in calling for ATV regulations based on scientific evidence and reflecting the benefits of automobile legislative efforts, including a minimum driver age of 16 years.

In the absence of legislation preventing children under 16 from driving ATVs and OHVs, Parachute does recognize the value of educating younger riders in rural and farming communities for the purpose of work and travel. This can be a great opportunity for parents to model safe behaviour and explain that, just like driving cars, ATVs need adult skills and knowledge.

Driver education

Parachute also recommends a legislated minimum driver age of 16 years to commence ATV and OHV driver-training programs.

Once a child reaches 16 years of age, appropriate training classes are a great way to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence required to safety operate an off-highway vehicle.

We are very supportive of ATV and OHV driver training; however, we do not have enough evaluation research at our disposal to recommend a particular training approach. 

Protective equipment

As hospital data indicates that head injuries are a serious risk of ATV and OHV incidents, Parachute advocates the use of appropriate helmets and clothing during ATV and OHV use for people of all ages.

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