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Emphasis on youth safety while enjoying ATV activities

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Photo Credit: fotosipsak/iStock Photo

When COVID-19 led to more time at home, some families pursued new means of outdoor recreation, creating a surge in demand for all-terrain vehicles.

But with increased participation in off-road pastimes came an uptick in accidents, especially among youth riders.

As the holiday shopping season countdown begins, some safety specialists are concerned that new, inexperienced riders may be hitting the trails without properly sized equipment and safety gear. With a documented increase in accidents, families are urged to take precautions as they consider the purchase of an ATV for youth.

According to the nonprofit World Against Toys Causing Harm Inc.’s 2021 summer safety report, the effect of the pandemic on injuries associated with ATVs was significant. Between March and September of 2020 there was a 39% increase in injuries treated in emergency departments, and a 149% increase for children up to age 9.

“That extra time at home created more opportunities to use ATVs, and unfortunately that can mean more accidents,” said Dana Fisher, chairman of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Farm Safety Advisory Committee. “It’s crucial to select the correctly sized equipment and make sure up-to-date, properly fitting safety gear is included in any purchase.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 40,000 children under 16 are treated in emergency rooms for ATV-related injuries each year. Most injuries are sustained when riders are thrown off an ATV, and in crashes or rollovers.

Between 1982 and 2018, there were at least 15,744 ATV-related fatalities, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of these, 3,353 involved children younger than 16.

Farm Bureau’s safety committee shared some tips to enjoy ATVs safely:

  • Ensure an ATV that will be used by a child is sized correctly. Children should be able to rest their feet on the footrests and easily reach the handlebars.
  • A full-size ATV may not be operated by someone under the age of 16 in Virginia. Youth-size ATVs 90cc and under may be operated by youth 12 and older. Children under 12 are limited to 70cc ATVs.
  • Wear properly fitting safety gear, especially U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant helmets that fit a child’s head.
  • Enroll children in an ATV safety class through a local ATV dealer or Virginia Cooperative Extension agent. Take a free online course at ATVSafety.org.
  • Parents should demonstrate safe riding themselves, and supervise children, ensuring they know how to operate an ATV safely.
  • Do not carry passengers.
  • Stay off public roads; only ride on designated trails at a safe speed.