As the supervisor of recreational sports at the University of Calgary, Ian Munn knows how to have a good time. He also knows how to play by the rules, and that’s key when ATVing with kids.
“Yes, it can be dangerous, but with the proper equipment and training and using common sense it can be fun,” said Munn. “Kids learn to respect the machines and learn good habits from the get-go.”
The use of proper equipment is essential. Kids should have all the same safety gear as an adult would, including a full-face off-road helmet, goggles, gloves, long pants, long-sleeves and/or a jacket of heavyweight material. Adults must practice what they preach and don the appropriate safety gear every time they ride.
Choosing the right ATV for the child is extremely important, Munn said. There are ATVs designed with young riders in mind. These machines are smaller and less powerful, lighter and easier to handle than adult size ATVs. Riders must be able to comfortably grip the handlebars without stretching as well as touch the ground with their feet. Children should never be allowed ride adult sized ATVs.
Many models of youth ATVs have a remote kill switch. This allows the engine to be cut remotely by the adult in charge. Some models also have a tether that must be held by the adult as they walk or jog along behind. Pulling off the tether kills the engine instantly. If your machine doesn’t have a kill switch, one can be installed.
Tips for parents
Where you ride is just as important as what you ride. Smooth, flat terrain where one can see well into the distance in essential for the new rider. Avoiding hills, bodies of water and dense trees is important. Always ride in daylight and have a full tank of gas when you start out. Be mindful of changing weather conditions and adjust your ride accordingly. Maintain a speed that kids can handle, as this can increase as confidence and skills build.
When asked for tips on riding with kids, Munn said, “Slowly. And I always ride with my kids out in front of me so I can see where they are going.”
Lastly, any adult riding with kids should be well-trained and experienced. They must know their machine well and familiarize themselves with the model that the kids are riding before starting out.
Kids and adults must remember to set limits and ride within their ability, and, of course, to have fun!
Ride smart, ride safe
The Canadian Off-Highway Vehicle Distributors Council is a national non-profit association whose mission is “the ongoing education and training of the general public on the safe and responsible use of all-terrain vehicles and off-road motorcycles as well as to promote the responsible interests of riders and the industry.”
The COHV website offers a number of resources geared toward young ATV riders and their families that promote the safe and responsible use of off-highway vehicles.
A booklet designed to assist parents in choosing the right ATV for their child called Parents, Youngsters and All-Terrain Vehicles is available at no cost, as is a DVD titled Ride Smart Ride Safe. These items can be ordered via email or by phone at 1-888-470-2288.