ATV Safety

ATVs are fun, but they’re not toys.

“I love to ride my four-wheeler.  It’s just pretty much my best friend.  Whenever I feel bored, I’ll go ride.”  Corey, a charismatic and well-spoken Vermont teen welcomes us to the 4-H “Play It Farm Safe” ATV safety video with this simple, personal statement.  He’s not alone.  Corey is one of thousands of teens who love their four-wheelers.  ATVs are fun, fast, and functional.  From my Youth Farm Safety Project perspective, they are both an important part of our farming landscape, and an area needing our focused attention.  While youth injuries and fatalities on farms have significantly decreased these past 15 plus years, the number of youth injured or killed on ATVs has actually gone up.  More children die in the United States each year from ATV-related events than from bicycle crashes.  Approximately 25% of all people who have died while riding an ATV in Vermont have been under the age of 16.  Which is why, after hooking us with his love for his four-wheeler, Corey spends the next 4 minutes of video time sharing ATV safety information.

Operators need to understand the hazards & be mature enough to make safe choices.

The “Play It Farm Safe” site – with Corey’s video and many others – will go live later this fall.  In the meantime, we’ve whittled the highlights down to a 10-Point Personal Safety Checklist for young ATV operators.  We’re looking for a “Yes!” with every question:

  1. Am I dressed safely? (DOT approved helmet, goggles or visor, gloves, and above ankle boots with a low heel.  Long sleeves & long pants are best!)
  2. Am I on a machine that fits my strength, size, and experience?
  3. Do I understand the hazards of an ATV?
  4. Am I confident in my ability to make safe decisions, and does an adult who knows me agree?
  5. Have I received hands-on training from a qualified adult?
  6. Am I familiar and comfortable with the controls?
  7. Is the terrain within my skill, experience, and comfort level?
  8. Am I riding with someone else?
  9. Does someone at home know where we’re going and when we’ll be back?
  10. Am I confident that I won’t allow extra riders on my ATV?

Make sure young riders can easily operate hand controls while turning.

Of course, you can’t cover ATV safety with 10 short tips.  For additional resources, check out the national 4-H ATV Safety website at   There you can find a range of safety videos; links to the national ATV Safety Institute(ASI) safety training sites for children, teens, and adults; and a web-based ATV safety game for youth – Treadsylvania.

In Vermont, all ATV operators under 18 must have “safety education certification” to ride anywhere off their family property.  There are two ways youth can receive this training and complete the state’s ATV safety exam – a good idea no matter where you ride.

The Online Option: Youth can go to the Vermont State Police on-line safety course and exam located at  This is an option for young people who are comfortable studying on their own and who have easy access to the Internet.  The cost for certification is $30.

The In-Person Option:  The Vermont All-Terrain Vehicle Sportsman’s Association (VASA) offers FREE in-person classroom training around the state.  You can go to: for more information.  It’s worth repeating: these classes – including certification – are FREE OF CHARGE.

Make sure the ATV fits the rider’s size, strength, maturity and experience level.

VASA will be starting their next training season in the spring of 2013, but if there’s enough interest, Vermont 4-H and VASA will collaborate on a final 2012 safety certification class before the snow flies. If you know a young person (12-17) who could benefit from this class, please feel free to contact me via e-mail ( or phone (802) 656-2034.

If you are interested in beginning a 4-H ATV Safety Club, you can contact your county 4-H Educator for help.  You can get more information at 1 (800) 571- 0668, or check out the 4-H club fact sheet at

Profile photo of Kristen C. Mullins

About Kristen C. Mullins

Kristen Mullins has been developing and implementing community-based educational programs for over 20 years. Her work with UVM Extension includes curricula and resource development for the Youth Farm Safety Project as well as coordinating the New Farmer Project’s Ground Work Program. Mullins previously worked for Vermont Works for Women where she was responsible for directing workforce development programs for women and girls.
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