Savannah Valley District

ATV Safety

Marion Barnes, Senior County Extension Agent

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are typical on many farms and properties and are helpful for work, recreational use, and other modes of off-road transportation. However, ATVs continue to be a source of injuries and fatalities for youths as well as adult operators. According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC), in 2021, there were 490 emergency department visits among South Carolinian children (under 16) due to nonfatal unintentional ATV injuries. From 2012 through 2021, twenty-two South Carolinian children younger than 16 died from ATV-related incidents. The majority of these fatalities occurred among children between the ages of 10 to 15. Nationally, more than 90% of deaths and injuries among ATV riders younger than 16 occurred in an adult-size vehicle.           

Many incidents involving ATVs can be prevented by evaluating the youth’s readiness to operate an ATV by identifying the appropriate size ATV, using recommended personal protection equipment, giving the youth safety instructions, and providing adult supervision. Adult supervision of youth ATV operators is essential to ensure that youths follow the rules, wear the appropriate personal protection, and correctly operate the ATV. Devices and controls such as throttle limiters, exhaust restrictors, and remote shut-off switches are available to assist adults when supervising beginning ATV operators.

Most ATVs are labeled with a recommended age for a particular model. However, some states may have specific rules and regulations regarding the allowable age for the operation of ATVs. Age should not be the only factor in determining when youth can safely operate ATVs. Children develop at different rates, so each child’s cognitive and physical development should be considered when making a decision about their ability to operate an ATV safely. Do not overestimate a child’s abilities when making decisions that will affect their safety. Be sure they understand that unsafe or reckless behavior may result in injury or death. Discuss safety scenarios with youth to ensure they can provide sensible and safe reactions to the situation.

The ideal setting for learning about ATV safety and operation is an approved safety training program. For information on ATV training courses, contact your ATV dealer or the ATV Safety Institute at 

Additional ATV safety resources include:

Ag Safety and Health

SCDHEC All Terrian Vehicle (ATV) Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

For more information on farm safety and related topics, contact your local Clemson Extension Office.

Information for this article was taken in part from the following sources:  Ag Safety & Health, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission All-Terrian Vehicle Safety, SCDHEC All-Terrian Vehicle Safety & the ATV Safety Institute. 

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status, and is an equal opportunity employer.