ATV Safety

All-terrain vehicle (ATV)-related crashes involving children are a growing problem in the United States. On average, 532 adults and 77 children die from injuries sustained while riding ATVs each year.

At Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, ATV injuries are the fifth leading cause of emergency admission, accounting for 69 hospital admissions in 2017. Most treatments involve head injuries, caused by failure to wear a helmet or carrying too many passengers. Other injuries sustained from ATV crashes involve the neck and abdomen, and fractures to extremities.

Recent research indicates that children under 16 are more prone to ATV injuries because of their lack of experience and coordination operating large motorized vehicles and lack of mature judgment. These factors lead to risky behavior, poor decision-making and ultimately injury. Equally concerning is the fact that kids this age often do not wear helmets or receive formal ATV training even though these are two of the easiest ways to prevent injury.

Because ATV injuries are a rising concern in Tennessee, the Trauma Injury Prevention Program aims to limit the number of deaths and injuries caused by ATV crashes by increasing awareness about best practices for safe riding. Children’s Hospital fully supports the American Academy of Pediatrics’ and the American College of Surgeons’ recommendation that children 16 and under should not ride ATVs due to the high risk of serious injuries. If parents still believe this is an activity their child may pursue, an ATV rider safety course can provide proper training and education.

Tennessee ATV legislation

Managed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ATV Safety Information Center identifies the following four restrictions as the current legislation on ATV safety in the state of Tennessee. 

  1. All riders (operators and passengers) on four-wheeled ATVs in designated state park riding areas must wear helmets and eye protection at all times.
  2. ATV riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet at all times, even outside of state park areas. 
  3. Three-wheeled ATVs are not allowed in state parks
  4. ATV use on highways is only permitted while crossing the road at designated crossings or when safety can be assured.

ATV safety tips

The following safety tips for ATV use are provided by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

  • Take a hands-on safety training course. The ATV Safety Institute offers online course enrollment.
  • Always wear protective gear, especially a helmet, when riding ATVs. Wear a motorcycle or motorized sports helmet certified by the US Department of Transportation or the Snell Memorial Foundation.
  • Do not drive ATVs with a passenger or ride as a passenger.
  • Do not drive ATVs on paved roads. These vehicles are designed for off-road use and are more difficult to control on pavement.
  • Do not permit children to drive or ride adult ATVs. Most pediatric ATV-related deaths and injuries occur when a child is driving or riding on an adult ATV. Children under 16 riding on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding on youth ATVs.
  • Do not drive ATVs while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Need ATV Safety Gear? Visit the Safety Store at Children's Hospital.

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