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Before you buy Power Wheels for your kid, you want to know how safe they are. I understand. No one wants to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a toy that can harm their child.
Power Wheels are safer than other non-motorized riding toys. Fisher-Price recalled many Power Wheels in 1998 and 2001, but after paying a $1.1 million fine, followed safety recommendations. No children have died from a Power Wheel, and due to safety features, they have a low accident rate.
Below I explain why Power Wheels are safe, why they got a reputation for being unsafe, and how manufacturers responded to safety concerns. Keep reading for additional safety tips and our Power Wheel recommendations. This is the most important question we cover on this site about power wheels.
Are Power Wheels Safe?
Yes, Power Wheels are safe. They need to meet safety standards and have excellent safety records. Power Wheels are far safer than non-motorized riding toys, especially scooters. There are several reasons for that:
- Speed. The top speed for most Power Wheels is six miles per hour. And vehicles that come with speed lock-outs give you more control over the speed. Scooters and bikes don't have speed limitations.
- Four-wheels. Power Wheels are stable in comparison to two-wheeled and three-wheeled riding toys. The injury rate for Power Wheels is far lower than for scooters, bikes, and tricycles.
- Added protection. A kid in a Power Wheel is protected on all four sides. A kid on a scooter is not.
At first glance, it might seem like a car-like toy would be less safe, but due to these reasons, Power Wheels are safer than non-motorized riding toys.
However, there seems to be a lingering suspicion that they are not safe. Let's explore why that might be.
Why Do People Claim Power Wheels Are Not Safe?
When the news reports something about a product being recalled, they do not write about what happened afterward. That could be one reason why some people associate Power Wheels with danger. They remember the headlines about product recalls but aren't aware of the outcome.
The first recall of Power Wheels occurred over twenty years ago, in 1998. It was a massive recall that involved up to 10 million vehicles. The recall was the result of 700 electrical components that failed or overheated. Around 150 fires were connected to the Power Wheels. There were also approximately 70 reports of vehicles not stopping.
The group W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) puts out a top ten list every year. The 2020 list included Calico Critters Nursery Friends, Toysmith Missile Launcher, and Scientific Explorer Sci-Fi Slime. However, Power Wheels did not make a list.
More headlines came about because of several accidents in 2016. Three children were killed in riding toys that year, but all three died from encountering a motor vehicle. This is not the fault of the Power Wheels.
In some cases, a recall can be easily confused with a power wheel. For example, the CPSC recalled Radio Flyers' eWagons in 2018. Due to improper wiring, several wagons had started unintentionally. Luckily, no children were hurt.
Finally, a recall in 2019 of Barbie Campers was due to the vehicle not stopping when the driver released the foot pedal. This recall happened after Fisher-Price received 17 reports about this issue. No injuries were reported, and Fisher-Price recalled the toy before any injuries happened before the CPSC asked them to.
This shows that toy manufacturers will err on the side of safety. They do not want the headlines, the possibility of lawsuits, or more fines.
When thinking about the dangers of toys, consider two things. First, headlines and media stories tend to overdramatize dangers. Secondly, many recalls are based on relatively few accidents. Instead, the recalls are designed to prevent possible accidents. This is not to say that any child should get hurt, but that some perspective is needed.
How Manufacturers Responded
In 2001, Fisher-Price agreed to pay a $1.1 million fine to the CPSC because it had not disclosed power wheel safety defects related to battery fires. Although Fisher-Price did not acknowledge wrongdoing, it wanted to avoid further litigation.
This fine served as a wake-up call to toy manufacturers that they needed to follow the ASTM's Toy Safety Standards. These standards were mandated in 2008 by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. These standards look at potential safety issues for practically any toy sold for children under 14, including ride-on and battery-operated toys.
The standards address both the finished toys and methods for testing the toys. Manufacturers cannot simply test batteries in any way they want, but they must follow the standards' procedures.
The ASTM standards are updated to reflect new technology and additional potential problems that have been uncovered. In the 2016 and 2017 updates, lithium-ion batteries had to meet additional requirements, and new curb impact requirements were added for ride-on toys.
If you are concerned about your power wheel, you can always check the CPSC Safer Products website. Use the search feature to check for recalls and incident reports. For example, a power wheel search found a report from 2011. The child fell out of her Disney Princess Tot Rod, which does not have seatbelts. Also, their daughter was 13 months old.
Based on this report, you might want to stay away from Power Wheels that don't have seat belts and consider whether a child that young should be driving one.
What Are the Statistics About Power Wheels?
There's hype, and there are facts. We've covered the hype, and now let us look at the facts.
According to Stanford Children's Health, most injuries to children are for riding toys. Specifically, these riding toys are tricycles and non-powered scooters. Most of these injuries happen due to a child falling from a riding toy. As you can see, scooters and tricycles are more dangerous than Power Wheels.
It is difficult to fall from a power wheel. However, if your child does not have much experience with Power Wheels, don't allow them to drive on steep terrain. This might cause the vehicle to tip over, leading to possible injury.
A more recent report by the CPSC has some interesting statistics related to Power Wheels.
The total deaths due to toy-related deaths for kids under 15 were as follows:
|Year||Deaths||Number Due to Motorized Vehicles|
Again, the loss of any life is a tragedy, but children do not die from using Power Wheels. When an injury that results in death occurs, it involves a non-motorized scooter or riding toy and a car or truck.
Statistics on Accidents and Motorized Vehicles Like Power Wheels
Most parents worry more about injuries that will send their child to the hospital. So what are the statistics on that?
In 2016, the largest percentage of emergency room accidents were for non-motorized scooters (20%). Since not all emergency room accidents get reported to the CPSC, the organization used the data to estimate the total number of accidents. The injuries associated with non-motorized scooters were over 20%.
See a pattern yet? Based on these statistics, scooters are far more dangerous than motorized toys like Power Wheels. So, go ahead and let your kid ride a power wheel. Just make sure they follow safety guidelines.
Think of safety guidelines in three categories—what you should do, safe riding guidelines, and riding rules.
What You Should Do
Monitor, monitor, monitor, especially if your kids are young, inexperienced, or don't understand or follow the rules yet.
As you have seen, most serious accidents involved cars or trucks, so your child needs to understand they should avoid driving in the street. Until you are confident your kid will stay out of the road, you need to monitor them.
When you buy a power wheel, follow the age recommendations. If the vehicle is three and above, don't buy it for a two-year-old. It could be too fast or too large for your child.
Additionally, just because your kid wants to drive fast does not mean they can do so safely. If they cannot control the car, they might abandon it. Then you'll be stuck with an unused power wheel.
Only you should install and charge the battery. Young children should not be allowed to handle Power Wheel batteries. They might drop the battery as it will be heavier than they expect. The battery contains sulfuric acid, which could lead to injury should it spill out after a fall.
Do not let a young child assemble the car. The manufacturer recommends that children not be involved in assembling the vehicle due to sharp edges.
Finally, when the vehicle is not being used, disconnect the battery from the motor harness to prevent unsupervised use of the Power Wheels.
Safety Zone Guidelines
Make sure your kids know the safety zones:
- Bodies of water, such as swimming pools and ponds, should be avoided to avoid the risk of drowning.
- If you have areas with a steep incline, they should stay away from them.
- Steps and ditches should also be off-limits.
Warning: Even though driving a power wheel inside is not dangerous to your kid, it is likely to damage your home's floor. Fisher-Price is not responsible for damage to your wood floors, linoleum, or carpet.
After letting your child know what areas to avoid, give them a few rules for riding. These rules are for their safety.
- Sit on the seat to avoid falling off, tipping over the Power Wheels, or blocking the driver's view.
- Wear shoes always.
- No extra riders.
Safety Features To Look For
When buying a power wheel, consult the CPSC website for recalls. Although modern Power Wheels will state they meet safety standards, look for the ASTM F963 toy safety standards:
- For younger riders, look for vehicles that have few and easy features for operating the power wheel. This will help them focus on learning to drive safely.
- Power Wheels with a low center of gravity are safer for smaller kids because the cars are less likely to tip over.
- If you or your kid has their eye on a truck or S.U.V. product, a width/height ratio of 1.5:1 lowers the risk of a rollover.
- Many Power Wheels come with a thermal fuse. This safety device trips the battery if the vehicle is overloaded or the driving conditions are unsafe.
Safety Equipment for Your Kid
Not all safety equipment has to be in the car. You can choose to have your child wear some of the same gear they did when learning to ride a bike. A helmet, elbow guards, and knee guards can protect your kid if they have a minor accident.
Consider having your kid use motocross safety gear for the rugged Power Wheels, such as the Dune Racer.
Teaching Your Child To Ride Safely
For some parents, teaching a kid to do something is easy, but it can be frustrating for some of us. Here are a few tips to help you out:
- Decide on how you will keep your cool. It could be something as simple as counting to three before saying anything.
- Watch a YouTube video or read the instruction manual. Nothing is as embarrassing as telling your kid to hit the brake when the Power Wheel doesn't have a brake.
- Start with the basics. Do not try a 3-point turn until your kid has mastered how to drive forward and turn.
- Praise, motivate and keep directing. We all love to hear praise, and sometimes we need someone to cheer us on. And coaching is more than giving a direction one time. Beginners need repetition.
- Most importantly, have fun. With a little patience and a sense of humor, both you and your kid will enjoy learning how to drive.
Our Picks for Safest Power Wheels
Power Wheels Dune Racer
This fun-looking Power Wheel has some excellent safety features. First, the dune racer has a low center of gravity, reducing the risk of a tip-over. The side grab bar gives your kid something to hold onto. And the tires have actual treads to provide traction on slippery surfaces.
The racer can go 2.5 or 5 miles per hour and a lock-out feature so your kid cannot do 5 miles until ready.
Most Power Wheels use automatic braking. Instead of a separate brake, the vehicle begins braking as soon as your kid lifts its feet off the gas. This is much safer than having to worry about a separate brake pedal.
A feature I wish the racer had is seatbelts. However, the sidebars will prevent kids from falling out. Otherwise, the Dune Racer will appeal to the kid who wants to be a racecar driver and to a parent concerned about safety.
Fisher-Price Power Wheels Gameday Jeep Wrangler
Many kids love the look of a Jeep, and this Power Wheels Jeep Wrangler will bring joy to their faces.
The Wrangler has many of the same safety features as the Dune Racer—speeds of 5 and 2.5 mph, tires with tread, and power-lock brakes. The Jeep also comes with a high-speed lock-out feature.
This car sits higher off the ground than the racer, but the doors provide added safety.
The vehicle has a net on the back that holds three small balls (they come with the vehicle). When your kids get tired of driving, they can entertain themselves with them.
Power Wheels Baja Extreme
For the kid who longs to go off-road but is not old enough, the Baja Extreme is an excellent Power Wheel for kids 3-7 years old. Like all our recommendations, this vehicle is a two-seater with a maximum weight of 130 pounds.
It has many similar features to the Jeep Wrangler and Dune Racer—the dual speed, Power-Lock brake system, and high-speed lock-out.
I like the sturdy steel frame, big tires, and metal sidebars. I do wish the Baja Extreme had seat belts, but that is not to be.
Uenjoy 12V 2 Seats Mercedes Benz G63
This 2-seater has adjustable Y-shaped seat belts and a double lockable door as basic safety features. The removable side windows provide additional protection. Best of all, the Mercedes comes with a remote control that lets you adjust the car's speed.
L.E.D. Lights, a built-in horn, and real engine sound can alert others the car is nearby.
Power Wheels are beginning to add additional comfort features to make the car more realistic and “grown-up.” These include a multi-media system that includes things like Bluetooth, AUX cord, and USB port.
Although this can add excitement to the Power Wheel, a younger driver can become distracted by the extra features.
Power Wheels are fun and safe. A four-wheeled vehicle is less likely to fall and provides more protection if your child runs into something. Follow the safety guidelines I outlined, make sure your kid knows how to ride safely, and monitor their driving. Do those things, and your kid will have fun zooming around the yard, and you will have the peace of mind that they will be safe. So, what are you waiting for?