Coming in many shapes and sizes, go-karts are easy to use and provide an exciting experience, allowing children to enjoy the thrill and freedom of driving in a safe environment.
Go-karts are a combination of an open race car and buggy, though some can be closer to a four-wheeled bike. Pedal go-karts may simply rely on gravity to move at faster speeds, while some battery-powered models will use an electric motor to increase the speed from pedalling.
It’s usually the electric models that cause concern for parents, as driving a go-kart at higher speeds can increase the risk of accidents. However, electric go-karts are safe when the right model is chosen and used properly according to the manufacturer’s guidance.
If you’re considering getting an electric pedal go-kart for your child, but you’re concerned about their safety, here’s what you should know to put your mind at ease.
What age is suitable for go-karting?
Most go-karts are designed for specific age ranges. Small, non-electric pedal go-karts are usually available for children around 2–5 years old to get them started with a slower vehicle. Larger electric pedal go-karts are then available for children up to 12 years old – with some models large enough for adolescents and even fully grown adults, depending on the design.
However, the height and weight ranges specified for a go-kart model are more important. If a child is the appropriate age but is too small or too big, they won’t be able to ride that particular go-kart safely, so they will either need a smaller or larger model suitable for their size.
Many go-karts for kids also have ergonomic designs that allow you to adjust the seat position and the height of the steering wheel or handlebars to accommodate growing children. This means your child can still use the vehicle as they grow, but once they exceed the height and weight limits, it will be time to upgrade to a bigger go-kart.
Of course, you must also consider your child’s existing motor skills. Driving a go-kart requires co-ordination and dexterity, and while go-karting helps children to develop these skills, they must be able to operate the go-kart safely on a basic level to start with.
How fast can electric go-karts go?
Professional electric or gas-powered go-karts at commercial race tracks can go very fast, typically reaching speeds of 50mph or more. It’s the idea of this kind of speed that worries parents, but the type of electric go-karts that are manufactured as outdoor toys for kids are nowhere near as fast.
The product description of any electric pedal go-kart for kids should explain the top speed it can reach at full power. Most children’s go-karts won’t be faster than 10km/h (around 6mph), though models for older children may be capable of speeds up to 16km/h (around 10mph).
Lower speeds make it easier to control the go-kart and prevent accidents, as do designs with a low centre of gravity and go-kart brakes. All models will be equipped with a suitable braking system that makes it easier for the rider to brake safely when driving forwards, backwards, or around turns.
Are go-karts dangerous?
Electric go-karts are not dangerous if they are used in the right way, as directed by the product manufacturer. As long as you and your child follow the instruction manual provided with the go-kart for its conditions of use and maintenance, it should be perfectly safe.
You may want to equip your child with safety gear to reduce the risk of injuries, such as a properly fitted helmet and elbow and knee pads. You don’t have to invest in a custom go-kart driving suit, by any means, but it can help to make sure your child is wearing suitable footwear and clothes before driving the go-kart (e.g. closed shoes with flat soles, nothing loose or dangling, long hair tied up).
When your child first tries driving an electric go-kart, it’s important for you to teach them how to use it as instructed in the product manual. They should practise driving slowly and braking to get used to the controls, before gradually building up speed when they are confident in accelerating, reversing, and steering around corners or obstacles.
Be sure to inspect the go-kart before allowing your child to use it, as you can prevent them from driving it if you discover a problem that could put their safety at risk. Your child can even help you with these regular inspections if you ‘play pretend’ that it’s like an MOT for a real car, which would help to teach them responsibility.
You should also ensure that your child is supervised at all times when riding the go-kart. This can prevent them from losing focus and colliding into things, leaving the designated driving area and coming too close to roads or rough surfaces, or allowing siblings or friends to ride with them on a go-kart designed for one rider at a time.
Should you buy a go-kart for your child?
At the end of the day, it’s your decision whether an electric go-kart is a suitable outdoor toy for your child or not. There are many advantages of allowing your kids to drive go-karts, not least giving them a fun physical outlet in a controlled environment, which also encourages them to develop their motor and decision-making skills.
To make sure that the model you buy has been thoroughly tested and built to the highest standards of quality and safety, be sure to choose a reputable go-kart manufacturer. For example, you can be certain that a BERG Go Kart is high-quality and safe, as the Dutch manufacturer is internationally renowned for creating excellent outdoor play equipment.
There’s no need to be afraid of pedal go-karts that have been carefully designed for children to use. With measures such as speed limits and braking systems, and precautions such as wearing a helmet and only driving under supervision, both you and your child can be confident in go-kart safety.