Parents who view off-highway vehicles (OHVs) as suitable for drivers too young to have drivers’ licenses should take note: they can be just as dangerous as street-legal vehicles.

OHVs include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs), and utility task vehicles (UTVs).

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is alerting parents and all off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders to not allow their children to drive adult-size OHVs and to use caution when allowing them to ride OHVs. The first part of the warning should be unnecessary: children under 16 years old should not be operating adult-sized OHVs.

Hundreds of children's deaths

The CFA and its OHV safety coalition have documented over 2,500 OHV-related fatalities since 2013, and of those deaths, over 400 are of children under the age of sixteen. The CFA thinks it’s likely that the numbers will rise because the data is not yet complete.

Independence Day festivities are likely to include a lot of off-roading activities.

“As July 4th approaches, we urge all OHV riders to be cautious this holiday season and especially urge parents not to allow their children to operate an adult OHV or one that is too powerful for them,” said Rachel Weintraub, Legislative Director and General Counsel for CFA. “Parents should also ensure their children have the necessary skills and are using safety equipment, such as helmets, when operating an OHV.”

The numbers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released its most recent fatality and injury report related to ATVs in January 2017. This data includes just ATVs and not other OHVs, while CFA’s data includes all OHVs. However, CFA can identify which OHV has been involved in each fatality. In the CPSC’s report, the most recent fatality data for 2015 includes 340 ATV fatalities. In 2015, CFA identified 501 ATV fatalities. In 2014, the CPSC documented 547 ATV fatalities, and CFA identified 545. In 2013, the CPSC documented 581 ATV fatalities, and CFA identified 482. The CPSC is continuing to collect ATV fatality data.

CFA has been working to minimize deaths and injuries from OHVs for decades by petitioning the CPSC to ban adult-size ATVs for children, by convening a coalition to prevent OHV road access, and with that coalition, by compiling fatality information in real time.

CFA urges the following six critical steps to reducing OHV deaths and injuries:

  • Never operate an OHV on a road.
  • Never permit children younger than 16 years old to operate an adult-size OHV or any OHV that is too large and too powerful for them.
  • Always wear a helmet and other protective gear when riding an OHV.
  • Never allow more people on an OHV than it was designed to carry.
  • Never ride when under the influence.
  • Take a hands-on safety course.