Family Safety: Setting ATV Ground Rules

All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) can provide hours of outdoor family fun, but with the excitement come serious safety risks. Accidents happen quickly, and even the most experienced riders may lose control, roll over, or run into obstacles or other vehicles. Setting a few ground rules regarding ATV use is the best way to ensure that every rider in the family stays safe.

How Young Is Too Young?

While there are technically no federal age restrictions or regulations regarding ATV use, each state has its own rules. Some states require that all riders be at least 16 years old and receive safety training. Other states allow much younger children to ride as long as a licensed adult is present.

It’s up to each parent to know what age is legally appropriate for ATV use in their state. In Michigan, state law dictates that no one under 10 years old may operate any 4-wheel ATV except on private land performing farm-related work. Children 10 and 11 years old can operate an ATV only on their parent or guardian’s private property, if they are under direct supervision, and if they have earned an ORV (Off Road Vehicle) safety certificate. Whether stricter age rules should be enforced is a family matter.

Must-have Safety Gear

Requiring each rider in the family to wear and carry the proper safety gear is a great way to instill safe riding habits. Everyone, regardless of age or experience level, should wear industry-approved head and eye protection as well as long pants and sleeves, boots, and gloves to prevent scrapes and cuts. It’s also important to always have a first-aid kit handy and to know how to handle minor injuries. In a more serious emergency, call professionals for assistance immediately.

Setting Rules and Limits

There are a number of safety measures every ATV, dirt bike, or other off-road vehicle riders should follow at all times. These include not riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol, avoiding paved roads and public streets, and limiting each vehicle to a manufacturer-approved passenger limit. Parents may want to set additional rules for younger riders, no matter their experience level. Preventing tired or uncoordinated kids from riding for long periods of time, establishing limited riding times, and monitoring riders for safe practices are easy, effective ways to keep riders of all ages safe.

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