Arkansas Children’s Hospital Advises: ATV Accidents on the Rise

June 7, 2005 - Injury Free Coalition for Kids of Little Rock

Arkansas Children’s Hospital Advises: ATV Accidents on the Rise (Little Rock, Arkansas – June 7, 2005) While riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) can be a fun recreational activity, they can also be a great danger to children when operated incorrectly. Healthcare professionals at Arkansas Children's Hospital (ACH) caution parents to take the necessary precautions to keep their children safe and healthy. “We saw 14 ATV-related injury admissions in May alone at Arkansas Children's Hospital and 40 so far in 2005. Parents and caregivers need to understand that these vehicles are not toys and should not be operated by young children,” says Donna Parnell, R.N., M.N.Sc., trauma program coordinator at Arkansas Children's Hospital. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no one under 16 years of age operate an ATV. ATVs should never be driven on streets or roads and only one person at a time should ride on the vehicle.” Many injuries seen at ACH and across the country occur when ATVs are used on public roads. ATVs are less stable on paved surfaces, resulting in poor control and overturns. In addition, when ATVs are on the road or on the shoulder of a paved road, there is high risk of collision with a motor vehicle. More than half of ATV deaths and injuries occur on paved roads. Injuries also result when more than one passenger rides on the ATV. These vehicles are not designed to carry more than one person, but because of the large seat, which is designed to allow the driver to shift his or her weight to stabilize the vehicle; many use the extra space as additional seating. Parnell also advises the use of proper safety equipment, especially a motorcycle-style helmet, to help lessen injury severity if these vehicles crash. “These are large, heavy vehicles that travel at highway speeds and offer no protection to the rider. Young children do not have the physical strength or the critical thinking skills to know how to safely operate an ATV. In my opinion, if you aren't willing to give the child the keys to your car, they shouldn't be allowed to operate the ATV,” adds Parnell. However, there are some parents and caregivers who overestimate the abilities of their children. Many parents would never allow a young child to drive the family car. Older children who do drive cars or trucks receive hours of training and have to pass a written and skills test in order to receive a license, but do not receive the same amount of instruction for driving ATVs. Mary E. Aitken, M.D., MPH, staff physician and medical director of the Injury Free Coalition for Kids at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics and co-director of the Center for Health Promotion, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine has worked to help parents and children understand the dangers of ATVs. “ATVs are not toys. They are powerful and can achieve very high rates of speed – in excess of 60 miles per hour in larger vehicles. Parents need to know that children often do not have the size, maturity or judgment to safely pilot ATVs. The risk of ATV injury is often underestimated and results in tragic consequences for too many children in Arkansas. All drivers, no matter what age, should have training, wear helmets and other protective gear and avoid riding double to minimize their risk of injury,” explains Aitken. Dr. Aitken encourages parents and caregivers to use this ATV-injury prevention checklist to avoid unnecessary injuries: • Never use a 3-wheeler. They are not safe and no longer manufactured. • Attend an ATV driver’s safety course. • Ride an age-appropriate ATV. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no one under 16 years of age ride a full-size ATV. • Provide constant supervision when children are operating an ATV. • Never carry passengers. ATVs are designed for one person. • Do not use ATVs on the streets or at night. • Always wear an approved helmet with eye protection. • Wear non-skid, closed-toe shoes. • Wear long pants and a long-sleeve shirt. • Never operate an ATV under the influence of drugs or alcohol. To receive an ATV safety brochure or to schedule a presentation on "Risks of ATV Use for Young People", please call ACH Community Outreach at (501) 364-KIDS (5437). ###