Skip to main content

No Children under 16 on ATVs

ATVs, whether for recreation or an occupation, are part of daily life in North Carolina – Safe Kids Wake County recommends that children under the age of 16 should never ride on or operate ATVs of any size – including youth-sized ATVs.

Nationwide, approximately 130 children under the age of 16 die each year as a result of ATV-related injuries, and an estimated 40,000 children under the age of 16 are seriously injured each year in ATV-related incidents.

Over the past five years at WakeMed, we have treated 201 ATV-related trauma patients. Of these, 73 were under 18 years of age and 39 were wearing helmets. And, although helmets can reduce the risk of severe head injuries, there are no safety devices that adequately protect against other injuries commonly sustained while riding ATVs.

ATVs are inherently difficult to operate, and children do not have the cognitive and physical abilities to drive or ride these vehicles safely. If an individual is not mature enough to drive a car with safety belts and traffic control devices on a paved road, that individual is probably not capable enough to drive a powerful open-seat vehicle at speeds up to 70 miles per hour over rough terrain.

This may not be the advice a lot of parents want to hear, especially if ATVs are commonly used by friends and family, but it’s the conclusion drawn from extensive and ongoing review of the data. The opinion of safety experts is that there is simply no way to make ATV riding a safe activity for children.

Rollovers, collisions and ejections involving ATVs can cause instantly fatal head injuries as well as serious nonfatal injuries to the head, spinal cord and abdomen. A child riding an ATV is four times more likely to be seriously injured than a rider over the age of 16.

For more information about ATVs and outdoor recreation safety visit

Sylvia Scholl is WakeMed’s Trauma Program Director.


2 thoughts to “No Children under 16 on ATVs”


    Until parents of children that partake in sports heed the rules, the problem with safety in any sport involving children will be hazardous.

    Reality is that parents allow children to operate ATVs that have large engine displacements not intended for use by a child, without helmets and other safety equipment, without parental supervision, and without following the rules.

    As with ATV use, a child under the age of 16 in NC should not be operating an ATV larger than 90cc, and younger ages are required to operate much smaller engine sizes. This inherently limits the speed of the ATV, e.g. 90cc = approximately 35 mph top speed. Of course, there are also speed limiters that parents may enable to further slow the ATV.

    There is also further safety equipment that parents do not obtain to ensure their child’s thoracic and abdominal safety, upper and lower extremity safety, as well as cervical/general spine safety.

    Safety is all about education and compliance, as abstinence only attempts to avoid the inevitable active partaking of some sport without following the safety rules and guidelines.

    Maybe noncompliant parents should be charged legally with child neglect/abuse when their child is injured due to the improper prep and operation of an ATV.

  2. It should be noted that ATV in this article is refering to a 3 or 4 wheeled vehicle. Two wheeled motorized bikes are not inculded in the NC law.

    (1c) All-Terrain Vehicle or ATV. – A motorized off-highway vehicle designed to travel on three or four low-pressure tires, having a seat designed to be straddled by the operator and handlebars for steering

Comments are closed.