Children under 16 years old lack the developmental skills to safely drive adult ATVs. These ATVs – with engine sizes over 90 cubic centimeters (cc) – can go over 70 mph and weigh hundreds of pounds. Current industry and CPSC recommendations are for children and young teens to be restricted to ATVs with engine sizes of 90 cc or below.
Children under 6 should never be on an ATV – either as a driver or passenger. Young children lack the physical ability and mental skills to safely maneuver a motorized vehicle with multiple speeds and controls.
Most ATVs are equipped with a label detailing the manufacturer’s and CPSC’s recommended age for that particular model. The recommended ages for Y-6 models (under 70 cc engines) are 6 to 11; the recommended ages for the Y-12 models (70 to 90 cc engines) are 12 to 15.
By age 6, some children can drive youth ATVs with simple controls at very low speeds. Many young children cannot grasp gear shifting or understand and apply most safety rules – especially in situations where quick recall is needed. A Y-6 ATV is designed to go up to 15 miles per hour; however, Y-6 ATVs are equipped with a device that can limit the speed to 10 miles per hour.
By ages 12 to 13, many children can drive youth ATVs at speeds under 25 mph. These children generally lack the cognitive skills to control adult ATVs under a wide range of conditions. Even many older, more experienced adolescents cannot make quick, accurate judgments while driving ATVs. A Y-12 ATV is designed to go up to 30 mph; however, Y-12 ATVs are equipped with a device that can limit the speed to 15 mph.