All-terrain vehicle (ATV) injury is an increasing and serious problem among US children and adolescents. Legislation, including child restraint and bicycle helmet requirements, has been successful in reducing injury mortality and morbidity to children for other injury mechanisms. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all ATV operators be at least 16 years of age and wear a helmet at all times. The purpose of this study was to document current state laws relating to ATV safety and use.
Methods A Web-based survey was performed in August 2005 to examine the ATV laws in each state in the United States. Our Web search found no ATV-related law for 3 states. These states were recorded as not having any ATV-related laws.
Results Most states prohibit ATV use on public roadways (n = 44) and require ATVs to be registered by the owner (n = 36). Half of the states (n = 25) require some training and certification for at least one segment of the population before operating an ATV. This certification is most commonly required for operators who are too young to have a driver's license. Eighteen states have no age requirements for use of ATVs on public land. There are 27 states that allow 12-year-olds to ride a full-sized ATV (engine size greater than 90 cc) on public land without training. Nineteen of those states also allow a 10-year-old to ride a full-sized ATV without training. On private land, several states require that the operators simply be "under adult supervision. " Only 12 states require helmet use by ATV operators at all times, while 13 more states require that those < 18 years old wear a helmet, and 2 require helmets for anyone under 16 years old. One state requires helmets for children less than 12 years of age. Finally, one state requires helmet use at all times when on public land. For 21 states, no helmet requirement exists under any circumstances. Only 4 states require that all drivers be 16 years of age or older and wear a helmet (until the age of 18) to operate a full-sized ATV.
Conclusions Use of ATVs is addressed in some form in the laws of most states, but great variability exists. Only a minority of states have laws regarding helmet use or age restriction in regard to ATVs. There are only 4 states that meet the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for ATV safety (16 years old and the use of a helmet). Strengthening ATV safety legislation may be an effective means in many states to curb the growing ATV injury problem in children.
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