‎Kids under 16 years old should not be allowed to drive ATVs of any size, say Canadian pediatricians in a new statement released Wednesday.

The Canadian Paediatric Society says ATVs, or all-terrain vehicles, are simply not safe for children and is calling on provinces and territories to prohibit those under 16 from operating them.

The doctors’ group also wants to make helmet use on the vehicles compulsory, as well as training courses. And they’d like to see laws that restrict ATV drivers from carrying passengers.

"ATVs pose a high risk of injury to children and youth," Dr. Natalie Yanchar, a pediatric surgeon at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax and chair of the CPS Injury Prevention Committee, said in a news release.

"Kids don't have the knowledge or strength to operate these vehicles safely. Their lack of sound judgment when encountering a potentially dangerous situation and tendency toward risk-taking only adds to the danger."

The CPS says that nearly 25 per cent of ATV-related deaths in Canada are among children under 15 years old, as are more than a third of serious injuries from ATV crashes.

ATVs are three- and four-wheeled vehicles with large wheels that are often used recreationally in off-road trails. They come in a range of sizes and can weigh up to 600 lbs.

Currently, the legislation on off-road ATV use varies across Canada. In Newfoundland for example, children under 16 cannot operate a full-size ATV, but they can use a youth-sized ATV. British Columbia, on the other hand, has no legislation on recreational ATV use.

The CPS says that about 447 Canadian children under 15 years are hospitalized every year for ATV-related injuries. Among youth aged 16 to 19, there are about 506 admissions a year.

"Provincial and territorial governments need to play a bigger role in regulating and legislating ATVs," says Dr. Yanchar.

"ATV injuries and fatalities are far too common. Unsafe behaviours, like taking passengers and driving without a helmet, need to be stopped."

In regions where ATVs are commonly used for transportation, such as remote and isolated communities, the CPS wants to see local education programs that convey the potential danger of ATV use among children and youth.