MARSHFIELD, Mo.-The recent death of a 5-year-old child while riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) with her teenage sister near Hillsboro, Mo., points to the need for greater attention to ATV safety, said a University of Missouri Extension safety expert.

Missouri ranked ninth in the U.S. for ATV-related deaths in 2006, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Missouri Highway Patrol statistics for 2007 show 13 people killed and 231 injured in ATV accidents in the state.

"The injury rate is likely understated, because many ATV injuries are treated at home and are not reported," said Bob Schultheis, University of Missouri Extension natural resource engineering specialist in Marshfield.

People often ignore safety procedures, including those intended to safeguard children, Schultheis said.

"I've done informal surveys at safety classes in rural schools. About 75 percent of the kids ages 6-10 say they have ridden with someone else on an ATV," he said. "Most ATVs are not designed to carry passengers. That long seat is needed by the driver to allow shifting weight to stay stable on uneven terrain. ATVs designed for passengers will have a back seat and hand rests."

Schultheis said about half the children in his informal surveys say they have driven an ATV and about 10 percent say they have driven on a public road. Riding on public roads is prohibited, except for agricultural purposes or official government use, and the driver must have a valid operator's license.

In Missouri, anyone under age 18 operating an ATV must wear a helmet. Those under 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian unless riding on property owned by the parent or guardian.

Anyone riding an ATV should wear appropriate safety gear, Schultheis said. That includes a helmet with a label indicating approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

"Make sure the helmet fits snugly when fastened," he said. "Full-face helmets will protect your face. Open-face helmets are lighter and cooler, but then you should have some mouth protection to wear with them."

To protect your eyes, wear a scratch-free face shield or goggles. These should bear the markings VESC8, V-8 or Z87.1 in one corner, or they should be made of hard-coated polycarbonate. They should be securely fastened and well-ventilated to prevent fogging.

Schultheis also recommends a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and leather gloves to protect you from sun, dust, brush and bugs. Sturdy, above-the-ankle boots are needed for foot protection. For frequent riders, he suggests off-road-style motorcycle gloves and a pair of strong, over-the-calf boots with low heels to prevent your feet from slipping out of the footrests

A free copy of MU Extension guide G1936, "All-Terrain Vehicles," is available at MU Extension centers or online at

Purchasers of new all-terrain vehicles are entitled to a free one-day training course to learn proper ATV riding procedures. Ask your dealer for details, contact the ATV Safety Institute at 1-800-887-2887 or enroll online at