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All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Safety

All-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, are off-road, motorized vehicles that have three or four low pressure tires. ATVs typically are designed for one rider (the operator); however, certain models do allow for passengers. ATVs come in a range of sizes and include both adult and youth models. Utility and recreational off-highway vehicles (UTV/ROV), also known as side-by-sides, are specialized four-wheeled vehicles used for a variety of purposes. A UTV/ROV can seat two, four, or six passengers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying ATV use until age 16. If a decision is made to ride, manufacturers recommend that children under the age of 16 not operate an adult-sized ATV and that children younger than 6 not ride on ATVs at all.

ATVs are designed to be off-road vehicles and require interactive riding (the ability of operators to shift their weight freely in all directions). However, off-road terrain and conditions are often unpredictable and changing. In this environment, ATVs can easily roll or become difficult to handle. Safety training and riding experience are critical to staying safe on an ATV. Many people view ATVs as toys when in fact, they are powerful and potentially dangerous vehicles.

  • The powerful nature of ATVs must be respected and manufacturers’ recommendations be taken into account when selecting and operating an ATV.
  • Parents should enforce age restrictions and provide adequate supervision to children.
  • Operators should attend a rider training course and practice their skills in an open, off-road area free of obstacles.
  • Operators must interact with the ATV while riding in order to turn and traverse inclines safely. Therefore, operators must ride within their skill sets; only with experience can more rugged terrain be handled.
  • ATVs are designed for off-road use only and should not be operated on hard surfaces, such as pavement and concrete.
  • Carrying passengers also makes ATVs harder to maneuver, so passengers should only ride on ATVs designed to accommodate more than one person.
  • All operators and passengers should wear a properly-fitted, securely-fastened helmet that meets or exceeds safety standards. If the helmet is not equipped with a face shield, then goggles should be worn for eye protection.
  • Proper clothing should be worn, including boots, gloves, and long pants and shirt. Riders on extremely rugged terrain should consider wearing off-road racing gear, which is padded for additional protection.
  • ATVs should never be used while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Injury Prevention Service
123 Robert S. Kerr Ave., Suite 1702
Oklahoma City, OK 73102-6406

Physical Address:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Injury Prevention Service
123 Robert S. Kerr Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK

Telephone: (405) 426-8440
Fax: (405) 900-7588

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