From 1982-2007, there have been 111 deaths reported in Pennsylvania of children under the age of 16 while either driving or riding on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Children under 16 years old, lack the developmental skills to safely drive adult ATVs. Adult ATVs have engine sizes over 90 cubic centimeters (cc) which can go over 70 mph and weigh hundreds of pounds. Current industry and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommendations are for children and young teens to be restricted to ATVs with engine sizes of 90 cc or below.
Children under six 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. Every child is different, but developmentally, young children lack the ability to judge speed or distance until the age of ten.
By ages 12-13, many children can drive youth ATVs at speeds under 25 mph. These children generally lack the cognitive skills to control adult ATVs under a wide range of conditions. Even many older, more experienced adolescents cannot make quick, accurate judgments while driving ATVs. Most ATVs are equipped with a label detailing the manufacturer’s and CPSC’s recommended age for that particular model.
Pennsylvania Specific Laws for Children under the Age of 16
- No one under age eight shall operate an ATV on state-owned land.
- No one between 8-15 years of age may operate an ATV unless on a parent’s land or in possession of a safety training certificate.
- No one under 16 may cross a highway or operate an ATV on designated roads unless in possession of a safety certificate and with an adult 18 or older.
- Have an age-appropriate model for your child.
- Always wear an approved helmet, eye protection and proper clothing. Wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, and over-the-ankle boots to help prevent scrapes and cuts.
- Take a safety certification program to learn how to operate an ATV safely.
- Ride an ATV that is right for your size and age.
- Only ride during daylight hours.
- Always ride at a safe speed on a designated ATV trail.
- Know basic first aid to treat minor injuries, and be able to get help in an emergency.
- It’s important to never do the following while riding an ATV:
- Never ride on a three-wheel ATV.
- Never ride on paved surfaces or public roads (except to cross them).
- Never allow children and teens to drive another passenger.
Safety Standards of Youth Model ATVs
The new safety standard of youth-model ATVs provide more flexibility and have age-appropriate designs, with different speed limitations and parental controls for each category.
- Youth 6+ – Designed for riders aged six and older with adult supervision; comes from the factory set with a maximum speed of 10 mph, can be adjusted by an adult up to maximum speed 15 mph.
- Youth 10+ – Designed for riders aged ten and older with adult supervision; comes from the factory set with a maximum speed of 15 mph, can be adjusted by an adult up to maximum speed 30 mph.
- Youth 12+ – Designed for riders aged 12 and older with adult supervision; comes from the factory set with a maximum speed of 15 mph, can be adjusted by an adult up to maximum speed 30 mph.
- Teenagers – Designed for riders aged 14 and older with adult supervision, and riders 16 and older without supervision; comes from the factory set with a maximum speed of 20 mph, can be adjusted by an adult to maximum speed of 30-38 mph.