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All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

ATV safety

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​All-terrain vehicles (ATVs, also called quads) are motorized vehicles that are very popular in Alberta. They’re designed to drive off-road or on dirt roads, never on paved roads or highways.

How can ATV cause injuries?

ATVs are powerful, fast, heavy machines. They can go up to 105 kilometres an hour and weigh up to 272 k​ilograms (600 pounds).

ATVs have a high centre of gravity and no roll bars, safety cages, or seatbelts. That means they can tip easily, throw riders and passengers off, or even roll over on top of riders.

Between 2016 and 2020, 64 Albertans died riding ATVs.

Can children ride ATVs?

Medical experts agree that children younger than 16 years should never ride ATVs—not anytime, anywhere, or any size.

Children don’t have the strength or skill to ride ATVs. And it takes them longer to notice when something is dangerous. Watching over your child on an ATV isn’t enough to keep them safe.

Are smaller ATVs or 3-wheeled ATVs safe?

There's no proof that using a smaller, "youth-sized" 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 get injured, even on smaller ATVs.

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

Is it safe for my child to ride an ATV as a passenger?

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children under 16 years never ride an ATVs, even as a passenger.

Often, passengers ride ATVs that aren't made to carry more than 1 person. When a passenger rides on a 1-person ATV, it becomes more unstable and harder to control.

If an ATV is made for passengers, those passengers should be 16 years old or older.

What can raise the risk of injury on an ATV?

Some ATVs are being made safer and more stable. But there are always risks when you ride an ATV. Here are factors that can raise your risk of injury or death on an ATV:

  • going very fast
  • riding at night or in bad weather
  • going up or down steep hills
  • riding on paved roads or highways
  • riding in areas you don’t know well
  • stunting or doing tricks
  • being a first time rider
  • using alcohol or other drugs
  • ​being distracted (such as talking on the phone or texting, talking to others, or not watching the path in front of you)

How can I be safer on an ATV?

These tips can lower your risk of getting hurt when you ride an ATV.

Be a responsible rider

  • Keep your ATV in good repair. Make sure it has a working headlight, tail light, and muffler.
  • Ride during daylight hours on flat or gently sloping terrain.
  • Respect everyone on the trails, such as animals and people hiking, riding bicycles, and on horseback.
  • Know the area’s hazards. 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 be dangerous because of ditches, drop-offs, cliffs, or trees.
  • Know the local weather before you ride.
  • Don’t be a passenger or carry a passenger on a 1-person ATV.
  • Never use alcohol or other drugs before or while riding an ATV.

Wear protective gear

  • Wear an approved motorcycle or ATV helmet—it's the law in Alberta​. Head injuries are a big cause of ATV-related deaths. Choose a helmet that fits well. Fasten it securely.
  • Use eye protection, such as a helmet shield or riding goggles. Regular sunglasses won’t protect your eyes.
  • Wear clothing to protect you, including boots and gloves.

Learn skills​​​

    ​​Take an ATV operator course from a trained instructor. The Canada Safety Council​ offers ATV rider courses that train you to:
  • ​​​​use controls
  • ride terrain
  • turn
  • climb hills

References

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

Current as of: December 23, 2021

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program