I’ve heard concerns that offering education programs about all-terrain vehicle safety could actually encourage young kids and teenagers to ride them. When using this argument to discourage ATV safety programs, opponents present the idea that the increased participation would lead to increases in injuries.

I believe that many kids will ride ATVs if they are available regardless of education programs. Any effort to make people ride them in a safer manner – if it’s possible– seems like a worthwhile goal.

After all, ATV accidents result in more than 130,000 patient emergency department visits and 800 deaths in the United States each year. Children 15 years old and younger make up about one third of ATV injuries and one fourth of deaths from them.

At least in rural areas in the United States, kids do ride them. In Iowa, 77% of students have ridden on an ATV. 38% do so weekly. And 58% of the Iowa students who have ridden an ATV have been involved in a crash.

We must educate kids about ATV safety.

Education, however, seems to be lacking. Studies have shown that between 15% and 26% of kids who rode ATVs had never received any ATV safety training. Fewer than 5% had undergone a formal ATV certification course.

In a study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention, Charles A. Jennissen and others at the University of Iowa administered a program in schools called the Safety Tips for ATV Riders (STAR). Their study offered some interesting observations:

Barely half of the students realized that ATVs are intended for only one rider.
• Safety knowledge and understanding risks of injury before the program did not appear to correlate with safe riding behaviors or being involved in a crash. It is possible that frequent riders understood the risks but chose to engage in risky driving anyway.
• On a positive note, a large percentage of students claimed that they would use the safety information. Female riders and riders with little experience more often reported they would use their new training.

Many medical organizations discourage ATV use due to the high risk of injuries. While I am not discussing this topic in order to promote banning ATVs, I do think that education programs could be beneficial, especially for young riders.

Jennissen CA, Peck J, Wetjen K, Hoogerwerf P, Harland KK, Denning GM. The Safety Tips for ATV Riders (STARs) programme: short-term impact of a school-based educational intervention. Inj Prev. 2015 Jun;21(3):166-72.