Numbers don’t lie: all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) aren’t toys for kids to ride.
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In the span between 2001-2010, more than 350,000 children under the age of 15 went to the ER with injuries riding ATVs.
Though a new study from the journal Pediatrics shows there was a decline in the number of ATV-related injuries to kids ages 15 and younger in 2010, ATV accidents among kids are still a serious problem.
Potentially devastating injuries
Researchers found that the most common injuries resulting from ATV-related accidents were fractures, bruises, scrapes and cuts. But injuries can be far more serious and even fatal — 55 children died in ATV accidents in 2010.
Thomas Tallman, DO, did not take part in the study but is an emergency room physician at Cleveland Clinic and has seen the kinds of injuries that can be sustained in ATV accidents.
“These things can be pretty unstable, and you’re exposing your head and neck if these flip over and you’re not wearing a helmet,” says Dr. Tallman. “We’re talking about spinal cord and all kinds of other orthopaedic injuries.”
7 tips for safer ATV use
Dr. Tallman and the American Academy of Pediatrics have these suggestions for safer all-terrain vehicle use:
- Don’t let children too young to have a driver’s license operate an ATV. Kids under 16 are involved in about 30 percent of all ATV-related deaths and ER-related injuries. Because children’s nervous systems and judgments have not fully developed, off-road vehicles are very dangerous.
- Don’t ride double. Passengers are frequently injured when riding ATVs. Most ATVs are designed to carry only the driver; riders can make ATVs unstable and difficult to control.
- Train in ATV safety. Dr. Tallman stresses that, while ATV safety courses are not required by every state, all ATV riders should take a hands-on safety training course.
- Always wear protective gear. All riders should wear motorcycle (not bicycle) helmets with eye protection in the form of safety visors and face shields, sturdy shoes and protective, reflective clothing.
- Keep ATVs off the streets and paved roads. ATVs don’t have common safety equipment found on all cars and trucks designed for street use, and their tires are not designed to grip on pavement. Parents should never permit nighttime riding or street use of off-road vehicles.
- Make sure your ATV is easy to see. Flags, reflectors and lights should be on every ATV to make it more visible.
- Don’t drive ATVs impaired with alcohol, drugs or even prescription meds. Parents should set an example for their children in this regard.
Parents are key to ATV safety
Dr. Tallman agrees that parents or responsible adults are the most important factor when it comes to ATV safety and kids. He says kids should always be supervised even if they have their driver’s license. They should never ride alone.
Ideally, Dr. Tallman urges parents to “ride with them every time, so you can make sure that they’ve got their helmets on and are going at a safe speed.”