ATV Safety Facts by Bob Gfeller

A major goal of the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma is addressing the issue of mild traumatic brain injury in youth when they participate in recreation and sports. By youth, I mean these are boys and girls roughly 15 years old and younger. By recreation and sports, I mean all the sports the kids play such as boys playing football, hockey, soccer, basketball, lacrosse and girls playing soccer, basketball, cheerleading, and volleyball, as well as other sports.

From a recreational standpoint, we’re specifically talking about outdoor recreation on ATVs, four wheelers, motocross, and of course bicycles. I’d like to focus in on the ATV issue for this blog because the statistics are really surprising. We have studied a lot of literature and a lot of studies that have been done in this area. In fact, we have funded a couple of papers in this area, one of which should come out at the end of 2014.

There are about 10 million ATVs in use throughout America today. Injuries on ATVs are up approximately 70 percent over the past ten years and injuries in children have now reached 40,000 emergency room visits per year. Why is that? When you look at injuries on ATVs, children represent only 20 percent of the riders, but 50 percent of the injuries. These injuries include both a singular injury, which means a head or limb injury, but over 20 percent of them are multiple injuries, meaning limb and head or internal organ and head, so they’re pretty severe injuries when we look at them.

For example, a study published by Dr. Allison McBride shows that in North Carolina 27 percent of ATV injuries are children but they are only 14 percent of the riders. There are three major factors:

1. Kids are driving machines that are just too big and powerful for them to control

  • There is legislation in all states defining legal ages for children to drive an ATV, with specific guidelines for size and power based on age
  • Most states say that children under 16 cannot drive an ATV unless they have parental supervision

My two cents: These rules are pretty hard to enforce when you’re in rural areas around the country

2. Drivers and riders are too young

  • Average age of a driver is 12
  • Average age of a rider is 9

My two cents: These are little kids driving and riding on powerful machines

3. “Reckless” activities on ATVs

  • 90 percent of riders do not wear a helmet
  • Driving too fast
  • Riding an ATV on paved roads
  • Alcohol consumption

My two cents: If you have ever ridden or driven an ATV, you know that when it hits a paved road the tires bounce and you can easily flip

Why does all this matter to the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma? Part of our equity is that the Childress family is very involved and passionate about the outdoors. We know that families love the outdoors – hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and other activities – and to get to many remote areas in our beautiful country ATVs are used. As the economy improves, more ATVs are being sold. We want to work in the area of ATV injury prevention and treatment.

As we look toward 2015, we will work on two recreation initiatives:

  • Improve research and knowledge on what causes people to ignore safety regulations for riding ATVs
  • Get involved in educational and outreach programs to make ATVs safer, which may include encouraging the use of helmets among both adults and children

Please remember this as you head into the fall recreational activities:  if you wear a helmet, injuries to the face and head could be reduced by 50 percent. A simple helmet can save you a world of grief and pain if you or your child are injured riding an ATV. Our goal is to save the lives of injured children. Your actions can save a life!

Stay inspired!!
Bob Gfeller, Executive Director of the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma

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