All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can be an enjoyable way to spend time with family and friends. They also can be helpful in doing work around the yard or on the farm. However, the fun of riding an ATV can turn dangerous—even deadly—very quickly.

More than 200 ATV crashes occur each year in Iowa, according to the state trauma registry. Many of these crashes result in injuries serious enough to require emergency treatment.

That’s why having the latest information and proper safety gear is so important. Being prepared and staying safe can help ensure your next ATV ride doesn’t result into a trip to the hospital—or worse.

Here are several helpful ATV safety tips:

Wear a helmet

Head injuries are the most common type of ATV injury and the leading cause of death in ATV crashes. Use your head and protect your brain—it could save your life.

Ride solo

ATVs are designed for one rider only. Never take another person for a ride. When two or more people are riding on an ATV, it’s much easier for the machine to flip or roll over, especially on rough terrain. 

Don’t ride on roads

ATVs are built for off-road use. They have a high center of gravity that makes it easy to roll over on paved surfaces. Also, ATV tires don’t grip and release the road like car tires—and that can mean trouble if you’re riding on the street or highway.

Ride the right-size machine

ATV size matters. Most ATV injuries and deaths among young people occur on adult-size machines. Follow these guidelines when choosing an ATV:

  • Stand on the footrest—there should be four to six inches between the rider’s bottom and the seat
  • Make sure you have the strength and weight to operate and control the machine
  • Make sure you can easily reach and use the throttle and brake while seated
  • Make sure your elbows are bent and they can maintain a firm grip on the handlebars while turning
Follow this helpful size chart
ATV Youth Label Typical ATV engine size Typical ATV engine size
Younger than 6    Children younger than age 6 should not ride ATVs  
6-9   Y-6+   70 cc or smaller
10-11 Y-10+   90 cc or smaller
12-13 Y-12+ 110 cc or smaller
14 and older T 110 cc or larger

Always wear protective gear

Every ATV rider should wear the proper ATV safety gear:

  • Helmet
  • Eye protection, such as goggles
  • Long pants
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Gloves
  • Boots

Slow down

ATVs are not made for racing, but they can reach dangerously high speeds, especially on straightaways and paved surfaces. Be smart—don’t go too fast.

Don’t mix riding with alcohol or drugs

Riding an ATV safely can be fun and challenging. Don’t make it harder—and more dangerous—by riding while under the influence.

Tell someone where you are going

It’s always safe to plan ahead. Let family or friends know where you will be riding—just in case of accidents or ATV breakdowns.

Respect private property

Ride on designated public trails or at home. Don’t risk an injury by riding in places that are unfamiliar or not made for ATVs—like someone else’s private property.

Take an ATV safety course

Knowledge is power—and it could prevent a serious injury.

For more information, visit uichildrens.org/atv-safety.