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Nationwide, children under the age of 16 account for 40% of ATV accidents and fatalities. Several factors contribute to this.

Youth learning to operate an ATV

Physical Factors: A major cause of accidents among juvenile riders is riding a machine that's too large for them to handle physically. Small children can't maintain a proper riding position or control without increased risk of falling off or being thrown from the machine.

  • Leg Length: When standing on the footrests, there should be a minimum of three inches of clearance between the seat and the top inseam of the pants. This clearance is required to maintain balance on the footrests when turning and riding over hills and rough terrain. While seated, the thigh should be roughly parallel to the ground.
  • Foot Length: A child should be able to reach the brake by rotating the foot on the footrest.
  • Arm Length: When seated on the machine, a child's arms should be long enough to:
    • Turn the handlebars and maintain a firm grip.
    • Operate the throttle comfortably when the handle is extended fully in a turn.
    • Operate the brake lever. The first joint of the index finger should extend beyond the brake lever when the child grips the handlebar.
  • Strength and Weight: In addition to reaching the controls, a child must have the strength to operate them properly. For example, a child should be able to squeeze a brake lever firmly during an emergency. Also, the child should have the strength and weight to keep from being thrown off the ATV on rough terrain.

Perceptual, Motor, and Maturity Factors: Children up to age 16 are at risk when operating ATVs because they:

  • Perceive distances to be greater than what they actually are.
  • Have a shorter attention span than adults.
  • React more slowly than adults.
  • Tend to believe that products purchased by their parents are safe.
  • Take more risks—particularly males—and perceive less danger in those risks than adults.
  • Get into trouble trying to imitate friends who show off new skills or stunts.
  • Often believe a little experience makes them expert riders who know everything there is to know about ATVs. Parents must make the correct judgments when their children ignore obvious limitations, dangers, and risks.