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All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

ATV safety

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Off-road vehicles, like all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and snowmobiles, are more popular than ever in Alberta. With this comes more deaths and serious injuries. Between 2014 and 2018, 78 Albertans died riding ATVs. Head injuries are a big cause of ATV-related deaths. Almost half of ATV-related deaths in Alberta are caused by a head injury.

ATVs are for adults

Children younger than 16 years old shouldn't ride any size of ATV. ATVs aren't toys—they’re powerful, heavy machines. ATVs can go up to 105 kilometers an hour. They can weigh up to 272 ​​​​​​kilograms (600 pounds).

It’s always important for parents to watch over their children. But ATVs can be so dangerous that watching over your child isn’t enough. Children don’t have the strength or skill to ride an ATV, and it takes them longer to notice when something is dangerous.

What about smaller ATVs marketed for youth or 3-wheeled ATVs?

Medical experts agree that no one younger than 16 should ride ATVs—anytime, anywhere, any size.

There's no proof that using a smaller ATV is safer for children. Children younger than 16 still have a higher chance of getting hurt—even dying—using an ATV. They’re 2 to 5 times more likely than adults to be injured, even when riding “youth-sized” ATVs.

Three-wheeled ATVs aren't stable, and no one should ever use them.

How about riding as a passenger?

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children under 16 should never ride ATVs, even as a passenger. The biggest problem with passengers is that they're usually on ATVs that aren't made to carry them. When a passenger rides on an ATV that's made for 1 person, it becomes more unstable and harder to control. If an ATV is made for passengers, those passengers should be age 16 or older.

Aren’t ATVs safer than ever?

Some ATVs are being made safer and more stable, but ATVs are still risky. Riding an ATV can be especially dangerous:

  • at high speeds
  • at night
  • on steep hills
  • in areas you don’t know well
  • when the driver is stunting or doing tricks

There's a higher chance of a serious ATV injury or even death if the rider:

  • is using alcohol or other drugs
  • ​is distracted (such as talking on the phone or texting)

SMART risk strategies

Look first

Look first means thinking ahead. Learn about and understand the risks of riding an ATV, and make a plan to manage them. Follow these safety tips:

  • Keep your ATV in good repair. Make sure it has a working headlight, tail light, and muffler.
  • Ride during daylight hours and on flat or gently sloping terrain.
  • Respect the rights of others on the trails (like hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, and animals).
  • Know what the possible hazards are in your riding area. If you don't know the area, find someone who does and ride with them for the first few trips.
  • Obey posted signs and stay on the trails. Going off marked trails can mean coming face to face with the unexpected—like ditches, drop offs, cliffs, or trees.
  • Know the local weather. Weather affects the trails.​
  • Don’t be a passenger or carry another person on an ATV built for 1 person.

Wear the gear

Here are some tips for wearing the right gear, which helps protect you when riding an ATV:​

  • It's the law in Alberta to ​ wear an approved motorcycle or ATV helmet.​​ Make sure that it fits snugly and is securely fastened.
  • Use eye protection, such as a helmet shield or riding goggles. Regular sunglasses don’t protect your eyes.
  • Wear suitable clothing, including boots, gloves, and sturdy clothing.

Get trained

Take an ATV operator training course from a trained instructor. The Canada Safety Council offers ATV rider courses that train you to:

  • use controls
  • ride terrain
  • turn
  • climb hills

Drive sober

Drive responsibly and pay attention so you're in control. Never use alcohol or other drugs before or while riding an ATV.


Alberta Health Services, Analytics. (2021). [Dashboard of injuries in Alberta. Alberta Injury Surveillance (workbook).​]​​

Current as of: March 22, 2021

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services