As a mother and ATV Safety awareness trainer, I often get asked the question “why do you teach children and youth to ride ATV’s when it is recommended that they do not ride until they are over the age of 16 years of age?” I hear it time and time again, yet each time I am still taken back by this question.
Why do I teach them? Because we love them and think they are the future of change, because we want to help make our society a safer place, but most of all, because I never again want to feel the pain and compassion when I hear a mother has needlessly lost her child, friend, or family member in an ATV-related accident.
These are the same reasons we teach our communities and youth about Drinking and Driving, the dangers of the Internet and Drugs and Alcohol. Yes, it would be nice if we lived in a society that could ensure that our children were never exposed to these things, but that’s not reality. I support helmet laws, I support the right to restrict your child from riding until they are an adult, I understand the stance of the Canadian Pediatric Societies given the below statistic, and I will continue to advocate for Education, Helmets and community awareness.
Here are some realities to consider:
ATV access and use
ATVs are used by many children in rural and remote areas of Canada, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.
Of 191 rural grade six children surveyed in 1996, 30% reported having a family ATV and 77% reported having access to a vehicle through family or friends. Since 1996 ATV sale have more than doubled!!!
ATV safety behaviours
Of 594 ATV operators 12 to 20 years of age (mean age 16 years) at a national youth-oriented agricultural convention, 93% indicated that they used an ATV for recreational purposes, with three-quarters also reporting ATV use for work-related activities.
Of that group the median vehicle size was 350 cc, yet only 24% of responders said they always wore a helmet.
Only 22% had ever participated in an ATV safety training program, while 40% indicated feeling that they did not need training or that they were already safe riders.
Among grade six students in rural Manitoba surveyed in 1996, only 35% of riders reported always using a helmet. Riding on inappropriately large vehicles (>90 cc) and on older, three-wheeled models (banned in Canada since the 1980s due to safety concerns) was also common.
ATV crashes and injuries
In Canada, the rate of ATV-related injury hospitalizations(for all ages) rose by 57% between 1996 and 2004.
Hospitalizations increased by 19% among children aged five to nine years old and by 13% among 10-to-14-year-olds.
Males account for 70% to 85% of injuries (involving emergency department visits, hospitalizations and death) with the largest proportion of injuries seen in older youth.
Inexperience, inadequate physical size and strength, immature motor and cognitive development, and tending to engage in risk-taking behaviours all compound injury risks for children and youth operating ATVs.
This is just a small clip of the statistics that can be found on ATV Safety. Yes we can say don’t ride, but that is just not enough. We need to start educating our children and ourselves. Ask yourself this – have you taken an ATV Safety course? Do you always wear a proper fitting helmet? Do you know what to do in an ATV-related emergency? Stop and think about it, if we wait till they are adults to let them ride, will they be better off? Maybe, but chances are they will still need training and education, so let’s start them young and get them trained.
See Ya in the Mudd!
For more information on these statistics and more visit: