ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) are motor vehicles that are designed for use on uneven surfaces. Full-size ATVs can weigh up to 600 pounds and reach speeds of 75mph. There are up to 7 million ATVs currently being used in this country.
Unfortunately, young riders make up a disproportionate number of injuries and fatalities. About a third of all ATV-related deaths and ED visits involve riders under the age of 16. The risk factors for ATV injuries are well known:
- No helmet
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Male (seems to go along with the previous one)
- Large engine
- Small child
- 3-wheeled ATVs
- Driving on public roads
- Riding with a passenger
The University of Connecticut published a recent study in which they surveyed youths at four major agricultural fairs covering the 4 major geographic areas of the state. The average age that the kids began riding was 9 years. The majority rode for fun, but more than a third admitted to racing informally with friends. 70% engaged in double-riding, 59% rode alone without family present, and 46% rode after dark. Most kids were trained on ATVs by family or friends, although 25% were self-taught. The majority wore appropriate clothing and 80% wore a helmet.
Nearly half of these kids admitted to being involved in at least one ATV crash. The most frequent type of crash was a rollover, followed by collision with a stationary object. 10% were pinned under the ATV. Commonly reported causes of the crash were poor driving conditions, lack of experience, and lack of strength to control the ATV. Those who reported crashing were also more likely to engage in risky ATV behavior like racing, riding after dark, riding without supervision, or riding a large ATV.
This study points to the need for additional education and training for both children who want to ride an ATV and their parents. The only way to reduce the number of children injured or killed by these vehicles is to make sure both groups understand the need for safe riding practices.
Reference: Campbell et al, J Pediatric Surg 45:925-929, 2010.