Quad bikes and mini-motos

It is legal for children under 16 to ride miniature motorcycles (mini-motos), miniature quad bikes and scooters on private property [1]. However, these vehicles are fast (capable of travelling at speeds up to 60mph (97km/h)), powerful and difficult to control. They are therefore inappropriate and unsafe for children.

Brake strongly advises against children being put in control of these vehicles in any circumstances. Children should also not be carried as passengers: many of these vehicles are not designed to carry passengers at all, and even those that can become harder to control with a passenger on board [2].

Quad bikes

Quad bikes are four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles with handlebars supporting the controls and a saddle similar to those on motorcycles. Engine sizes vary from 50cc up to 650cc. Quad bikes can be easily overturned if not controlled properly when going uphill or downhill, crossing obstacles or cornering: these manoeuvres require specific precautions and techniques [3]. They are usually not designed to carry passengers: doing so can unbalance the machine and make it more difficult for the rider to handle [4].

Quad bikes are designed for off-road use and most do not conform to road regulations, making it illegal to drive them on the road. Some do meet the legal requirements to be driven on roads, but only if the rider holds an appropriate licence, is wearing a helmet and proper protective gear, has paid road tax and insurance, and is over 17 years old [5].

Miniature motorbikes

Miniature motorbikes (mini-motos) are replicas of full-sized motorbikes, usually 15-18 inches (38-46cm) high. As they are small and light they can change direction very quickly, making them difficult to control. They accelerate quickly and can reach speeds of 45-60mph (72-97km/h) [6].

Mini-motos do not meet the legal requirements to be driven on roads, so may only be ridden on private land such as a closed racing circuit. Riders under 16 need permission of the landowner [7].

The tragedies

There have been several tragic cases, in the UK and overseas, of children being killed or seriously injured while riding quad bikes or mini-motos. Some examples are below.

In July 2014, five year-old Bryan Lappin was killed, and his brother James, seven, was critically injured when a man who had been giving them a ride on his quad bike lost control and crashed into a wall [8].

In December 2009, five year-old Jake Wilson died when he crashed his mini-moto at the grounds of a cattle market in Carmarthen, west Wales. He had won competitions on quad bikes [9].

On Boxing Day 2007, seven year-old Lizzie Cooke was riding the quad bike she’d received as a Christmas present on a road near her house when she was hit by a driver coming the other way. She died in hospital a few hours later [10].

Brake recommendations

To prevent further tragedies, Brake recommends a law banning children from riding mini-motorbikes or trail bikes, and a law restricting quad bike use to older children on certified tracks. In the meantime, Brake urges parents to put their children’s safety first and prevent them from risking their lives on miniature powered vehicles.

Learn more and take action:

[1] Road safety: mini motos, Thames Valley Police, 2014

[2] Opinion Relating to the Safety of Quad Bikes, Commission of Consumer Safety, 2000

[3] Opinion Relating to the Safety of Quad Bikes, Commission of Consumer Safety, 2000

[4] Opinion Relating to the Safety of Quad Bikes, Commission of Consumer Safety, 2000

[5] Quad bikes: the rules, Department for Transport, 2014

[6] FAQ, Midsouth Mini Moto, 2009

[7] Mini motos, Thames Valley Police, undated

[8] Five-year-old killed in quad bike crash in Portugal, ITV, 2 July 2014

[9] Boy, 5, killed on a motorbike was junior racing champion, The Telegraph, 30 December 2009

[10] Parents of seven-year-old girl who died on quad bike may face charges, Daily Mail, 28 December 2007

Page last updated: October 2014

Tags: speed young drivers motorcycling children road crash quad bike