All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Safety, Children Ages 19 Years and Younger

Each year in New York State, 2,250 children ages 19 years and younger are treated at a hospital because of an all-terrain vehicle-related injury. This is an average of over six children each day!

Six children ages 19 years and younger die each year due to an all-terrain vehicle-related injury.

Nearly one-third of those hospitalized suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Males ages birth to 19 years are three times more likely to be treated at a hospital for an all-terrain vehicle-related injury and are over four times more likely to be injured severely enough to require hospitalization.

The good news is that you, as a parent or caregiver, can play a major role in preventing all-terrain vehicle-related injuries.

What is an All-Terrain Vehicle?

An All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) is a motorized off-highway vehicle designed to travel on four low-pressure tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the driver and handlebars for steering control. "Single-rider" ATVs are intended for use by a single driver and no passenger. "Two-up" ATVs are designed for an operator and one passenger only.

What New York State ATV laws should I know?

For information about New York State ATV laws, please visit the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website.

How do I know if my child is ready to drive an ATV?

Although your child may be of the recommended age to ride a particular size ATV, not all children have the strength, skills or judgment needed to operate an ATV. You should supervise your child's operation of the ATV at all times and should allow continued use only if you determine that your child has the ability and judgment to operate the ATV safely. Your child must have the ability to anticipate, recognize, and react to potential hazards. Driving and riding on ATVs require good judgment to act responsibly and minimize risks. Physical size, strength, coordination, visual perception, emotional maturity, and the ability to reason and make good decisions are equally important considerations.

You can find a "Readiness Checklist" in the ATV Safety Institute's, "Parents, Youngsters, and All-Terrain Vehicles" booklet.

Should my child take lessons on how to drive an ATV?

Yes. ATVs are not toys. Serious injury can result from improper use of ATVs, but with preparation and practice, your child can safely develop and expand his or her driving skills. ATVs handle differently from other vehicles, such as cars and motorcycles. Proper instruction and practice are important. Riding ATVs can be an enjoyable form of outdoor recreation when done properly.

Where can I find an ATV training program?

The ATV RiderCourseSM, a half-day hands-on training program, is available nationwide. Visit www.atvsafety.org and click on "Online Enrollment" or call 800-887-2887 to find the training program nearest to you.

How should I choose the appropriate ATV for my child?

  • Children under ten years should never be on an ATV – either as a driver or passenger. Young children lack the physical ability and mental skills to safely maneuver a motorized vehicle with multiple speeds and controls.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's Minimum Age Recommendation Warning Label on the ATV. These labels will help you choose which ATV is appropriate for your child's age for that particular model.
  • If your child is younger than 16 years of age, he or she should not drive a two-up vehicle. Driving an ATV with a passenger requires advanced handling skills. According to manufacturers, these ATVs should never be used to carry children under 12 or to carry more than one passenger.
  • Children under 16 years lack the developmental skills to safely drive adult ATVs. These ATVs – with engine sizes over 90 cubic centimeters (cc) – can go over 70 mph and weigh hundreds of pounds. Current industry and CPSC recommendations are for children and young teens to be restricted to ATVs with engine sizes of 90 cc or below.

What kind of safety gear should my child wear while using an ATV?

  • NYS law requires all ATV drivers and passengers to wear USDOT-approved helmets and eye protection while using ATVs. Either a motorcycle helmet or motocross helmet are acceptable types of helmets to wear while using an ATV.
  • In addition, all ATV drivers and passengers should always wear gloves, long pants, long-sleeved shirts or jackets, and over-the-ankle boots.

What are the most important ways to keep my child safe while riding or operating an ATV?

All ATV drivers and passengers should always:

  • Wear a helmet, eye protection, and other protective gear.
  • Ride an ATV that's correct for his or her age and size.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.

All ATV drivers and passengers should never:

  • Ride on public or paved roads.
  • Carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle.
  • Drive or ride under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

How should ATVs be maintained?

ATVs must have the following equipment:

  • Brakes that are in good condition.
  • A muffler which is in good operating condition and meets federal standards.
  • A spark arrester approved by the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Tires with adequate tread without visible breaks, cuts, exposed cords, bumps or bulges.
  • A lighted white headlight and red taillight.

Answer these questions before allowing your child to ride an ATV:

  • Is riding gear (including a helmet and eye protection) available and being worn?
  • Are tires and wheels in good condition?
  • Are controls and cable operational?
  • Does the chain have proper slack and is it lubricated?

Where can and cannot ATVs be driven?

  • Always avoid driving on paved surfaces because pavement may seriously affect handling and control.
  • On public land:
    • An ATV may not be operated on public land unless it is specifically designated for ATV use, and it is allowed by a posted sign.
  • On private land:
    • To operate an ATV on private land, the driver must have permission of the land owner or lessee. If permission is granted, be sure the boundaries of the property are known, and respect any special restrictions or requests of the land owner.

What are some other ATV safety tips?

  • Educate yourself and your child about ATV safety and proper riding techniques.
  • Always supervise ATV drivers under the age of 16 years.

Where can I find more information about ATV safety?

NYS Data Source:

Please Note

Some documents on this page are saved in the Portable Document Format (PDF). If it's not already on your computer, you'll need to download the latest free version of Adobe Reader.