OHV recreation equals family recreation.  There are more options than ever to get outdoors and ride with family members both young and not so young.  But these options make it imperative that parents make sure that their children are of an appropriate age and maturity level to operate a motorized vehicle.  Thankfully the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) has some tools to help parents make informed decisions.

First, safe ATV operation begins with ASI’s Golden Rules (these apply to riders of any age):

  • Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet, goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, and gloves.
  • Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and permitted by law – another vehicle could hit you. ATVs are designed to be operated off-highway.
  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV specifically designed for two people.
  • Ride an ATV that’s right for your age.
  • Supervise riders younger than 16; ATVs are not toys.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed.
  • Take a hands-on ATV RiderCourse and the free online E-Course.

Parents trying to decide if their children are ready to ride should know that youth-sized ATVs come in several categories based on age.  Below are examples of labels affixed to most ATVs that indicate ages for which the vehicle is appropriate:

It is imperative that parents only allow children to ride ATVs intended for their age group.  ATVs are not toys.  Safe operation starts with selecting an appropriately-sized vehicle.

Finally, it is important that parents consider factors other than age before deciding that children are ready to ride.  Parents must assess their children’s maturity level, physical abilities and other attributes.  Thankfully, ASI has a readiness checklist to help parents make informed decisions.  From ASI’s website:

“This Readiness Checklist is provided to help you determine your youngster’s readiness to learn to safely operate and control an ATV. There is a significant amount of judgment needed in determining a youngster’s readiness to ride an ATV. The ultimate decision is the responsibility of the parent, guardian, or supervising adult. It is important that parents make informed decisions about whether or not their youngster becomes involved in ATV activity.”

Click here to download ASI’s Readiness Checklist.

ASI also has a few other resources for parents including a booklet titled “Parents, Youngsters and All-Terrain Vehicles,” which can be downloaded for free here.

Parents can also visit https://atvsafety.org/atv-ecourse/ to take advantage of ASI’s e-courses which include:

Coaching Young Riders – This course is designed for parents and caregivers supervising younger ATV riders. The adult and youth should take the course together for best results. The course is free and completion does NOT make you eligible to take hands-on training.

ATV Safety Activity for 6 to 11 Year Olds – This safety activity is generally intended for youths ages 6-11 years. This activity does not include state-specific information and completion does NOT make you eligible for a state certificate or hands-on training.

OHV recreation can bring a lifetime of happiness so there is no reason to rush any child into the sport. Please take advantage of the above resources to make an informed decision.  Recreate safely and responsibly, make sure your children do as well, and get out and ride!

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