First, being a parent, listen to your father! He probably knows more than you think!
Second, being a rider. Sit on your ATV, pick your feet up. What happens? Now, find a dirt bike, sit on it, pick your feet up. You fall over right? That's about how much more dangerous a dirt bike is over an ATV.
Given the same power/suspension/brake levels, you can accelerate, brake, turn and crash about the same on both. The ATV does give more stability mostly because you have more wheels on the ground.
Because it is harder to exceed your limits when riding a dirt bike but on an atv you "feel" safer so you tend to get in trouble faster.
Also, dirt bikes are lighter so when you do get in trouble ... chances are you can save it!
Talk to your dad, he sounds like he is very concerned about your safety ... But if you show him a web-page for the MSF dirtbike school http://www.dirtbikeschool.com/ and explain to him you want to learn to ride because it is important to you but you want to do it responsibly ... he will cave in and set you up!!!
A dirt bike is ten times safer than a atv. 4 wheelers give a false sense of security of being stable. Tell your dad to give you a chance and find a friends bike and ride it in front of him. This way you can prove to him you are a capable rider. Anyone that thinks four wheelers is safer just ask my buddy who had his bottom half of his leg dislocated at his knee and tore every ligament in his knee. Anything can happen on either but you can get away from a dirtbike.
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