ATV’s Pose Serious Risks to Children: Premier does a U-Turn

by John McKiggan

Two years ago the province of Nova Scotia passed strict new rules for all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) supposedly to protect children from injury.

Rule Ban Children From Riding ATV’s

The Off-highway Vehicles Act bans children under 14 from riding ATVs anywhere except on a closed course.


ATV’s Pose Risk of Serious Injury to Children:
ATV’s have become very popular in the last few years and as their use has increased, the number of serious injuires to children as a result of ATV accidents has sky-rocketed. There has been a call from medical professionals to ban children under age 16 from riding ATV’s.

The Canadian Paediatric Society has stated that ATV drivers should be 16 or over, suggesting younger children are not developmentally ready to drive these vehicles.

There have been numerous reports in media about how dangerous ATV’s are for young children. See for example: ATVs: Too Dangerous For Kids, Capital Health concerned about rise in ATV injuries

The Facts:

Sales of ATVs more than tripled between 1995 and 2003, rising from about 26,000 units to 94,000 units.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports the number of ATV-related hospitalizations increased by almost 50% in five years, from 1,693 in 1996/1997 to 2,535 in 2000/2001.

Children between the ages of 5 and 19 accounted for 36% of all ATV-related injuries.

Of the 92 ATV-related severe injury admissions in 2000/2001 where blood alcohol concentration was recorded, 26% tested positive.

Injuries from ATV-related activities are now the second most common cause of severe injuries in sports and recreation, after cycling.

Province Plans to Train 6 Year Olds to Ride ATV’s:

Last week the province’s Department of Health Promotion and Protection announced the government was spending $230,000.00 on 66 ATVs so that children as young as six could be trained to ride the vehicles.

Children’s Hospital Says Plan May Increase Injuries:

Nova Scotia’s Children’s Hospital was critical of the plan. Dr. Robin Walker, vice-president of medicine at the IWK Health Centre, said that the training could actually lead to an increase in injuries:

“If this program leads to children more frequently operating ATVs because then their parents think that they’re now trained to do so, this program could actually increase the number of children injured and killed,” Walker said.

Premier Supports Plan:

Premier Rodney MacDonald supported the plan when it was announced last week. “If it’s an investment in safety for our young people,” he said at the time, “the government’s willing to make it.”

Premier Makes a U-Turn on ATV’s:

But today Rodney MacDonald has decided he doesn’t like the plan after all and he wants his money back. CBC news has reported that MacDonald is demanding the return of the $230,000.00 although he didn’t have any details on how that was actually going to happen.

Leaving aside the debate about whether it was a good idea to use public money to train young children to ride ATV’s (it wasn’t!) the real question in my mind is whether children under the age of 16 should be driving ATV’s AT ALL!

ATV’s are a motor vehicle, just like a car or a motor cycle. Everyone accepts that one has to be mature enough to drive a car or motor cycle. Children cannot be licensed to drive motor vehicles until they are 16 and then there is a graduated license program to ensure that young drivers can gain the experience they need before getting an unrestricted license.

I have represented many families of children who have been seriously injured as a result of ATV accident’s and I have come to the conclusion that children under age 16 simply should not be driving ATV’s. Not on closed course. Not with training. NEVER.

What do you think?

I have been representing victims of serious personal injuries for 18 years. I wrote The Consumers Guide to Car Accident Claims in Nova Scotia to help victims of car accidents in Nova Scotia get fair compensation for their injuries. You can get a free copy of the book by contacting me through this blog, visiting my website at or by calling me toll free at 1-877-423-2050.

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