If you’re a parent like me who owns an ATV, your child may have asked you if it’s ok for him or her to ride it. However, depending on where you live, it might not be legal for your child to ride an ATV.
It may be illegal for your child to operate an ATV if he or she is under the age of 16. There are no federal regulations regarding age limits on ATV usage in the United States, each state has its own laws and restrictions. This is the same for Canada as well, where each province has its own rules.
In this post, I’m going to go over everything you need to know if you’re deciding to let your child ride your ATV.
What’s Legal and What’s Not
If you’re living in the United States, the first thing that you need to do is to check your State’s regulations. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides an awesome resource that lists each State and the documents you need to read in order to learn more about the ATV riding guidelines for each State.
Here’s how you should use this resource:
- Visit the CPSC State ATV Information website.
- Find your State
- Under the heading for your State, there are links to documents or web pages that you need to read.
- Read the documents from those links and look for any age restrictions with regards to riding ATVs.
Note: Not all documents provided by the State ATV information website contain information about age restrictions. For example, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona State Parks provide an excellent brochure which specifies that children under the age of 16 need to be supervised. However, the page linked to the State of Louisiana government page provides more general information about off-road vehicles.
The State ATV information website provides an excellent starting point for your research. However, if you can’t find the information regarding age restrictions right away, you need to dig deeper by calling the authoritative office that governs ATV usage for your State or doing a comprehensive search on each state’s government website.
Also, note that your State laws may apply even if your child is not driving or steering the ATV. Most ATVs are designed to be used by 1 person only and carrying your child on board with you is prohibited.
Much like the United States, each province in Canada has its own regulations and rules regarding ATV usage and age restrictions. Here are some links to each province’s website with regards to ATV usage:
British Columbia – Off Road Vehicle Act and Regulations
Saskatchewan – All-Terrain Vehicle Act
Manitoba – The Off-Road Vehicle Act
Ontario – The Off-Road Vehicles Act
New Brunswick – Off-Road Vehicle Requirements
Nova Scotia – Off Highway Vehicles
Prince Edward Island – Responsible ATV use Benefits Everyone
Newfoundland and Labrador – Information on ATV Safety
Northwest Territories – ATV Safety
Nunavut (City of IQALUIT) – All-terrain vehicle by-law
Most of the resources listed above should contain the age restrictions and requirements for each province.
There are also certain safety regulations that you need to be aware of. For example, some provinces like Quebec require mandatory Driver Safety training and use of a helmet.
As regulations change often, always remember to check your province’s webpage before allowing your child to ride your ATV.
Safety Guidelines and Common Sense
A general rule of thumb is that no child under the age of 16 should ride an ATV. Even if supervised, a child under the age of 16 may not have the physical strength or mental maturity to handle an ATV responsibility.
If your child is above the minimum age requirement for your Province or State and wishes to use an ATV, there are some safety guidelines to follow:
- Always wear a Helmet and Eye Protection
- Wear protective gear such as elbow guards, hip pads, riding boots, knee pads, riding pants, and gloves.
- Ride during daylight hours
- Do the research and only ride on designated ATV trails. Don’t ride on paved surfaces or public roads.
- Consider taking an ATV operating course. Some States and Provinces make this a mandatory requirement.
- Don’t exceed the number of recommended passengers approved by the manufacturer for your ATV.
- Do not ride while drinking or using drugs (kids or adults)
- Do not ride 3-wheel ATVs, they have been banned because they have been known to tip over easily.
ATV Sizes by Age
If your child is under the age of 16 but would like to ride an ATV, there are still options. Up until this point, we have been focused mainly on whether it’s legal for your child to ride an ADULT ATV.
Adult ATVs typically have engine sizes of 90cc or more.
However, there are ATVs that have smaller engine sizes that may be suitable for your child under 16 years old.
Here are the typical engine sizes suitable for children under 16 and supported by manufacturers:
- Under 6 years of Age: Electric motor ATVs, typically 36V, 500W or 800W depending on the model.
- Age 6-11: Under 70cc
- Age 12-15: 70 to 90cc
Riding ATV With Baby
If your child is a newborn and you want to take him or her “for a ride” to experience an ATV for the first time… please STOP!
Riding with a child strapped to your back or chest introduces a chance for neck and head injuries due to the rough ride. In the case of accidents, your child will not be protected.
Even for a short ride, a newborn must be transported properly via a full-size vehicle and a government-approved child seat.