All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) and Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Safety

ATV
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are three or four wheeled motorized vehicles with large, low-pressure tires designed for riding in off-road areas. ATVs have handlebars for controlling and steering the vehicle and a seat that is designed to be straddled by the driver. ATVs are used throughout Saskatchewan for transportation in rural areas, recreational use on trails, and for occupational activities on work sites, farms, and in remote areas.

Unfortunately ATVs have become the cause of many devastating injuries and deaths to the residents of Saskatchewan. These injuries are not isolated incidents and span across all geographic locations and age groups, including seniors and toddlers.

ATVs and Children

Injuries are the leading cause of hospitalization and death for children 1 to 19 years of age in Canada. ATV-related injuries are unfortunately responsible for a substantial number of these hospitalizations and deaths.

ATVs, because of their design, including size and speed, require considerable strength, balance, coordination, and cognitive ability to safely drive. Children do not possess the physical development to safely drive an ATV or the cognitive ability to react to potentially dangerous situations. It is not a question of an individual child’s maturity or size. The risks are related to the stage of development of the child’s body and mind.

What about Age-Appropriate Youth ATVS?

“Children must be allowed to play. However, when recreation becomes lethal or results in permanent disability and heartache for a family, then it can no longer be considered ‘fun’.” [3]

- Trauma Committee of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, 2008

A voluntary standard for manufacturers in Canada recommends children ride ‘age-appropriate’ ATVs. It is recommended that children less than 12 years of age ride an ATV with an engine size no greater than 70cc and children less than 16 years of age are recommended to ride an ATV with an engine size no greater than 90cc. [1]

Youth sized ATVs are smaller in size and reach slower speeds than a regular ATV, but this does not necessarily mean that they provide an acceptable level of risk for children. [2] ‘Age-appropriate’ ATVs may weigh up to 90 kg (200 lbs) and reach speeds of 50 km/hr (30 mph). ‘Age-appropriate’ ATVs still reach speeds that a child cannot be expected to understand or react to and weigh more than a child can physically control at these speeds. Children do not possess the abilities to safely control an ATV of any size. Riding an ATV puts children at an unnecessary risk of injury.

ATVs are NOT a Toy

Motor Vehicles versus ATVs: Some Perspective

To legally drive a conventional motor vehicle, such as a car or truck, individuals are required to be 16 years of age, complete an instructional course, pass a practical exam that tests driver competency, and follow the enforced rules of the road. Conventional motor vehicles also come with built in protective measures such as seatbelts and air bags. These requirements and protective measures help create a safer environment for drivers of motor vehicles and those around them. [4]

The average age of individuals who are treated at emergency departments in Canada for ATV-related injuries is 15 years, which is less than the legal driving age of conventional motor vehicles. [6]

ATVs do not have the same built in protective measures as conventional motor vehicles. A full-size ATV weighs over 225 kg (500 lbs), and is capable of reaching highway speeds. The severity of ATV-related injuries is similar to the injury patterns of a motor vehicle collision, yet children are driving ATVs without helmets or safety gear, without formal training or licenses, and often without following manufacturer recommendations and provincial legislation. [5]

ATV injuries

A person who is involved in an ATV crash can suffer life-long disabling or fatal injuries. Read the information below to find out more about ATV-related injuries.

What are the injuries?

People hospitalized with ATV-related injuries often suffer from multiple injuries. Fractures are the most common ATV-related injury and most often occur to the upper and lower extremities. [7], [8]

Head injuries occur in a quarter of all ATV-related hospitalizations and can result in extended recovery times and hospital stays, increased rehabilitation requirements, life-long disability, and death. [9]

The average length of stay in hospital for an individual with ATV-related injuries is over 5 days, with individuals who suffer major trauma averaging almost two weeks in hospital. Individuals often require support services including at-home support and rehabilitation services. [9]

Who is being injured?

ATV-related injuries occur in all age groups, from infants to seniors. Unfortunately, children represent a large proportion of hospitalizations and deaths. Canadian children between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age have the greatest number of ATV-related injury hospitalizations compared to any other age group, youth aged 20-24 have the second highest number, and children aged 10-14 have the third highest number. [9]

Almost three-quarters of ATV-related hospitalizations occur to males, and the highest proportion of ATV-related injuries to females occurs between the ages of 10 and 19 years of age. [9]

How many people are being injured?

ATV-related injuries account for more injuries than any other off-road vehicle including snowmobiles, dirt bikes, jet-skis, scooters, and go-carts. [6]

ATV-related injuries are responsible for a large number of emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and deaths each year. ATV-related injuries are currently the second leading cause of summer sport and recreation injuries in Canada, with over 3,000 people being hospitalized with ATV-related injuries in 2009-2010. [9], [10] This does not include emergency room visits and fatal injuries.

Where are the injuries occurring?

ATVs are used for transportation, recreation, and occupational activities at work sites, on farms, and in rural and remote areas. An ATV-related injury can occur in any one of these settings and appropriate safety behaviours must always be followed.

In Canada, residential areas and private homes are most often indicated as the location at the time of injury, followed by roads and highways, and recreational areas. [7]

How are the injuries occurring?

ATVs are heavy vehicles that are capable of great speeds. There are limited safety measures on an ATV to prevent injuries, and therefore drivers of an ATV must have the skills and take precautions to ensure they avoid hazards while riding an ATV.

Riding with a passenger on an ATV not intended for two riders and alcohol or drug use, are unsafe behaviours that may result in severe injuries. [7], [11]

ATVs are intended to travel over uneven and rough terrain, however doing so at excessive speeds can cause an ATV to roll or tip. The majority of ATV-related injuries occur when a rider loses control of the vehicle resulting in falls off of the ATV, the ATV rolling, and the ATV colliding with an object. [7], [8]

Injuries often occur when the rider contacts the ground, a tree, or another person after falling off the ATV; or when the ATV lands on the rider. [7]

Snowy trees

Preventing ATV Injuries

Whether using an ATV for work or recreational purposes, there are some easy steps that can be taken to ensure the continued health and safety of riders.Remember to drive with consideration for other people and vehicles and always follow the rules of the road.

Wear the Gear

Always wear an approved helmet when riding an ATV. Even a quick trip to check the field or to visit the neighbours can result in a disabling or fatal injury if appropriate behaviours are not followed. A brain injury can result in life-long disabilities and affect physical functions such as speech, fine and gross motor control, as well as alter an individual’s personality, memory, and emotions. A helmet reduces the risk of a brain injury in the event of a crash.

Eye protection is required when operating an ATV as well as other gear including over the ankle boots, gloves, a long sleeved shirt, and long pants. Protective clothing is necessary to protect your eyes and skin from cuts, scrapes, and punctures.

For recreational riders, off-road pants with knee-pads and chest and shoulder protectors are recommended.

Types of Helmets

There are different types of helmets available for use and helmets that provide additional protection, such as eye and face protection, should be considered for use when riding an ATV. Ensure the helmet you choose is approved for use when riding an ATV in Canada. Approved ATV helmets are certified by DOT or Snell.

An open-face helmet provides no additional protection to the face or eyes. If an open-face helmet is worn when riding an ATV, additional eye protection must be worn.

A full-face helmet provides additional protection to the face, eyes, mouth, and chin.

An Off-road or Motocross helmet provides the greatest amount of protection to the face, with increased protection for the mouth and chin.

Full face helmets

A helmet and eye protection is required by Saskatchewan law when riding an ATV on public land.

Helmet Maintenance

Remember all helmets must be replaced after five years. The material that a helmet is made from degrades over time. Although a helmet may look the same as when you bought it, it will not necessarily protect the head and brain in the event of a crash.

Helmets are meant to protect for only one impact. Replace helmets after a collision or if you find any dents or cracks on the helmet.

Say NO to Carrying a Passenger

ATV seats are very large and wide, however, just because two people can fit on an ATV seat does not mean that the ATV is meant to carry a passenger. The driver of an ATV needs to be able to make whole body movements in order to control the vehicle and the large ATV seat is designed to accommodate this side to side and forward to backward movement. A passenger can restrict a driver’s movement and change the dynamics of how an ATV handles.

Carrying passengers on an ATV that was not intended to carry a passenger affects the balance and control of the vehicle and is a dangerous practice which increases the risk of a rollover or fall from an ATV. 

Never carry a passenger on an ATV that was designed for one person.

Take an Approved Training Course

An ATV training course is recommended for operators of all ages. A safety course will help refresh skills as well as teach new skills for new or experienced ATV riders. There are instructors throughout Saskatchewan who offer approved ATV training courses.

For more information on training, contact:
Saskatchewan Safety Council

Regina: 306-757-3197

Fax: 306-569-1907

David Burnett, Chief Instructor

Saskatoon: 306-384-8079

Email: burnett3@sasktel.net

Never Mix Alcohol or Drugs with an ATV. Operating an ATV while impaired is very dangerous to your safety as well as the safety of others around you. Operating an ATV on public or private property while impaired is illegal.

ATV Legislation

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society’s 2009 Status Report, ‘Are We Doing Enough’, Saskatchewan’s ATV safety legislation is rated as Fair. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that provinces and territories introduce and enforce off-road vehicle legislation including [12]:

  • minimum operator age of 16 years,
  • restricting passengers to the number for which the vehicle was designed,
  • compulsory helmet use with no exemptions,
  • mandatory training, licensing and registration, and
  • banning the use of three-wheeled vehicles.

The Who, Where, and How of Saskatchewan Legislation on All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)

ATVs according to The All Terrain Vehicles Act include restricted use motorcycles, mini-bikes, and ATVs but do not include snowmobiles, golf carts, or agricultural implements as defined in the Traffic Safety Act.

Who?

To operate an ATV in Saskatchewan, a person must be 16 years of age and have a valid driver’s license.

Youth between 12 and 15 years of age can operate an all-terrain vehicle:

  • if they have successfully completed an approved ATV training course, or
  • if they are directly supervised by a person who has held a driver’s license for the previous 365 days,
  • if they are on public or private land, the untraveled portion of a highway, or are crossing a highway by the most direct and shortest route available.

Where?

To operate an ATV on public land or a highway, the vehicle must be insured for the owner and every person who operates the vehicle in accordance with Part VI of The Saskatchewan Insurance Act. This is not a form of registration; ATVs currently cannot be registered in Saskatchewan.

A person must not operate an ATV within two metres from the traveled portion of a highway except for the purpose of crossing the highway or using a bridge or weir. To cross a highway, an operator must bring the ATV to a full stop, dismount all passengers, yield to all vehicles and pedestrians using the highway, and proceed in the shortest and most direct route of travel available. Passengers must yield to all vehicles and walk across the highway in the shortest and most direct route of travel available.

To operate an ATV on private land you require permission from the land owner or occupant.

How?

Any person operating or riding as a passenger on an ATV is required to wear a helmet and appropriate eye protection.

A person operating an ATV must operate:
  • with due care and attention,
  • at a speed that is safe and reasonable and in any case never at a speed greater than 80 km/hr,
  • with a passenger only when the ATV is specifically designed for the transportation of passengers,
  • with prescribed lights at night,
  • to the right of oncoming vehicles,
  • to the left when passing a vehicle travelling in the same direction, and
  • with seat-belts when they are fitted and installed by the manufacturer.

Note:

All of the above legislation does not apply to people operating all-terrain vehicles on private land that is owned by themselves or an immediate family member (spouse, parent, guardian, child, brother, or sister) however, municipal bylaws can prohibit the operation of ATV on private land in the municipality as well as:

  • on crown land in the municipality,
  • on municipal land, and
  • on the untraveled portion of all or any part of a highway (except for provincial highways).

Contact your local municipality for all-terrain vehicle bylaws and follow all signs indicating restriction or prohibition.

The above is a summary of provincial legislation for the purpose of this website. For complete provincial legislation regarding all-terrain vehicles please refer to The All Terrain Vehicles Act. [13]

Considerations

Legislation has been established to protect individuals from devastating injuries. However, provincial legislation is not enforceable on private land in Saskatchewan. Therefore, it is important for parents, caregivers, and land-owners to comply with legislation even when on private land and take all necessary safety precautions to ensure no injury occurs to a young child or teenager due to ATV use.

Statistics

ATV-Related Injuries in Children
  • Children between the ages of 15 and 19 years have the highest number of ATV-related injury hospitalizations compared to any other age group in Canada. Youth aged 20-24 have the second highest number and children aged 10-14 have the third highest number of hospitalizations due to an ATV-related injury. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2007)
  • Sixteen percent of all hospital admissions to children less than 16 years of age were due to ATV-related injuries between 2003 and 2006 in Alberta. (Alberta Health Services, 2009)
ATV-Related Hospitalizations
  • ATV and OHV-related injuries were the second leading cause of summer sport and recreation-related injuries in Canada from 2004 – 2005, accounting for 2,808 hospitalizations and 25% of major trauma admissions. This does not include emergency department visits and fatal injuries. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2007)
  • Almost three-quarters of ATV-related hospitalizations occur to males, and the highest representation of female hospitalizations due to ATV-related injury is for children aged 10-19 years of age. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2007)
  • In 2008, there were 781 ATV-related hospital admissions and 5,834 ATV-related emergency department visits in Alberta. (Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, 2010)
ATV-Related Deaths
  • Between 2002 and 2009 in Alberta, there were 113 ATV-related deaths, with the youngest person who suffered fatal injuries being 1 year of age. Fifteen percent of these ATV-related deaths occurred to children under 16 years of age. (Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, 2010)
  • The leading cause of death for ATV-related injuries in Alberta between 2002 and 2009 was a head injury, accounting for 41% of all ATV-related deaths. (Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, 2010)
ATVs and Head Injuries
  • In a ten year period, 702 Canadians suffered a head injury due to an ATV or OHV incident. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2007)
  • The leading cause of death for ATV-related injuries in Alberta is head injury. (Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, 2010)
  • Head injuries accounted for 41% of all ATV-related deaths in Alberta between 2002 and 2009. Sixty-eight percent of people who suffered a fatal head injury were not wearing a helmet at the time of their injury, and almost half of all children, who were under 16 years of age and suffered a fatal head injury, were not wearing a helmet. (Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, 2010)
ATVs and Alcohol Consumption
  • In Canada, between 2004 and 2005, 28% of individuals who were tested for alcohol consumption after being hospitalized with ATV-related major trauma, tested above the legal limit of alcohol use. (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2007)
  • In Alberta between 2002 and 2009, 55% of the individuals who were tested for alcohol consumption after suffering a fatal ATV-related injury, tested positively. (Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research, 2010)
ATVs and Passengers
  • A literature review by the Canadian Paediatric Society reported that passengers were riding the ATV in 15% to 30% of cases where children were hospitalized with ATV-related injuries. (Canadian Paediatric Society, 2004)
  • In Manitoba between 1999 and 2003, 28% of children who suffered ATV-related injuries were riding the ATV as a passenger. Children ranged from 2 to 16 years of age. (Warda L, Briggs G, 2007)

References

  • 1. Canadian Paediatric Society, Injury Prevention Committee. Preventing injuries from all-terrain vehicles. Paediatric Child Health. 2012 [cited 2015 June] Available from www.parachutecanada.org
  • 2. Alberta Health Services- Injury Prevention, Health Promotion, Disease and Injury Prevention, Population and Public Health. Alberta Health Services Position on Child/Youth ATV Operations. December 2009 [cited 2011 July].
  • 3. Trauma Committee of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons. Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons’ position statement on the use of all-terrain vehicles by children and youth. J Pediatr Surg. 2008; 43: 938-939.
  • 4. Yancher NL, Kennedy R, Russell C. ATVs: motorized toys or vehicles for children? Inj Prev. 2006;12:30-24. doi: 10.1136/ip.2006.008466.
  • 5. Brown RL, Koepplinger ME, Mehlman CT, Gittelman M, Garcia VF. All-terrain vehicle and bicycle crashes in children: epidemiology and comparison of injury severity. J Pediatr Surg. 2002;37(3):375-380.
  • 6. Public Health Agency of Canada, Injury and Child Maltreatment Section, Health Surveillance and Epidemiology Division. Injuries associated with motorized recreational off-highway vehicles. The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP), All ages, 1990-2007 [cited 2011 July]. Available from www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
  • 7. Warda L, Briggs G. Off-road vehicle injury in Manitoba. Winnipeg: IMPACT: The Injury Prevention Centre of Children’s Hospital; 2007 [cited 2011 May 05]
  • 8. Public Health Agency of Canada, Injury and Child Maltreatment Section, Health Surveillance and Epidemiology Division. Injuries associated with all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). The Canadian Hospitals Injury Reporting and Prevention Program (CHIRPP) database, All ages, 1999-2001 [cited 2011 July]. Available from www.phac-aspc.gc.ca
  • 9. Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). National Trauma Registry Analysis in Brief: ATV injury hospitalizations in Canada, 2004-2005. Toronto: CIHI; 2007 [cited 2011 May 05]. Available from www.secure.cihi.ca
  • 10. Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). Summer is peak season for wheel- and water-related injuries. National Trauma Registry Minimum Data Set, 2011, Canadian Institute for Health Information; 2011 [cited 2011 July 28]. Available from www.cihi.ca
  • 11. Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research. All terrain vehicle (ATV) injuries in Alberta. Edmonton: Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research; 2010.
  • 12. The All Terrain Vehicles Act. Chapter A-18.02 of the Statutes of Saskatchewan 1988-89 as amended by the Statutes of Saskatchewan 1989-90, c.15 and c.54; 1990-01, c.P-15.01;1993, c.17; 2002, c.C-11.1;2004, c.L-16.1 and T-18.1; and 2005, c.M-36.1. c2005. Available from www.qp.gov.sk.ca
  • Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research. All terrain vehicle (ATV) injuries in Alberta. Edmonton: Alberta Centre for Injury Control & Research; 2010.
  • Alberta Health Services – Injury Prevention, Health Promotion, Disease and Injury Prevention, Population and Public Health. Alberta Health Services Position on Child/Youth ATV Operations. December 2009 [cited 2011 July].
  • Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). National Trauma Registry Analysis in Brief: ATV injury hospitalizations in Canada, 2004-2005. Toronto: CIHI; 2007 [cited 2011 May 05]. Available from www.secure.cihi.ca
  • Warda L, Briggs G. Off-road vehicle injury in Manitoba. Winnipeg: IMPACT: The Injury Prevention Centre of Children’s Hospital; 2007 [cited 2011 May 05].