Virginia Tech students design 'childproof' ATV ignition lock


Four students at Virginia Tech College of Engineering have developed a child-proof interlock system to prevent children from starting adult-sized ATVs.

The ignition safety lock system is multi-tiered – based on weight, cognitive ability and sitting position – making it virtually impossible for a child 10 years old or younger to start the vehicle by himself or herself, according to

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sent staff to Virginia Tech’s Grado Department of Industrial Systems and Engineering with a proposal for an ignition safety lock last September.

The three-step system requires a rider to weigh at least 90 lbs. and sit far back on the seat, thus pushing down the cushion to activate a magnet switch. From there, the user must press down and pull a toggle switch while also pressing a foot pedal. All three devices must be activated for the ignition to start, says co-designer Alexia Ioannou.

She and co-designers Jeff Howell, Kelly Miller and Clayton Harvey have tested the ATV lock system with several local children under the age of 12, and no youngster was able to defeat it. “We hoped it would limit them and it has,” Ioannou says.

“The students have designed a somatically redundant interlock ignition system for all-terrain vehicles to prevent children from starting ATVs that are made for adults,” says Tonya-Smith Jackson, a professor in the department and the faculty adviser on the capstone senior design project. “There are many child deaths each year, and the [commission] has sponsored this team’s efforts to design an effective and reliable interlock. The students have come upon a feasible and effective design.”

A key element of the challenge was to bring the system in under $500 so OEMs might voluntarily incorporate the safety system into future models.

Posted by Holly Wagner

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