Despite safety warnings from pediatricians and child health experts, children under 16 are still driving or riding as passengers on all-terrain vehicles. The number of young kids being injured or killed in ATV accidents has not changed much in recent years, according to a new study.
Since 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that ATV use be restricted to youth aged 16 years and older who wear helmets, don’t take passengers and steer clear of roads.
“Too many young children are driving these machines - equivalent to a motorcycle in many ways,” said senior study author Dr. William Hennrikus, medical director of the Pediatric Bone and Joint Clinic at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“Children should not drive an ATV until they’re over 16, just like driving a motorcycle,” Hennrikus said by email to Reuters. “Helmets should always be worn, just like a motorcycle.”
For the study, researchers examined data on 1,912 patients under age 18 who were injured while using an ATV and treated at trauma centers in Pennsylvania from 2004 to 2014.
During this period, 28 children died in ATV crashes, a mortality rate of roughly one per every 100,000 kids in the population, researchers calculated.
Fewer than half of the children were wearing helmets and a street or roadway was were 15% of the crashes happened. Rural areas tend to have more ATV crashes.
Being a passenger or being pulled by the ATV was a factor in almost one in four injuries, the study also found.
Half of the kids involved in ATV crashes were 14 or younger, and about 6 percent were no more than 5 years old.
Boys accounted for three in every four patients.
Limitations of the study include the possibility that researchers underestimated injuries and deaths because they only looked at trauma center patients, not children who were treated elsewhere or died before they ever reached a trauma center.
Experts agree that age isn’t the only factor parents should consider when letting their child drive an ATV.
“Parents need to think not just about their child’s size, but also their ability to think, to react to emergency situations and to maintain safe, cautious control of a very powerful vehicle,” said David Schwebel, a sports injury researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who wasn’t involved in the study.
All across the country children are riding on or driving ATVs with sometimes-serious consequences. Just in the past few months a 12-year old boy from New York died from injuries in an ATV crash. A 15-year old boy in Illinois was killed and his passenger, his 12-year old sister, was seriously injured when he lost control of the ATV. A 14-year old boy was killed in New Jersey after losing control and crashing his ATV into another 14-year olds ATV; 2 other children were seriously injured from that crash. None of the children were wearing helmets or seatbelts.
“Helmets absolutely have to be used for any ride, even short, apparently safe ones,” Schwebel said by email. “Passengers should never ride on ATVs unless the ATV is designed for more than one person.”
While ATVs can be dangerous for adults, they pose a much higher risk for children.
“Children are not developmentally capable of operating these heavy, complex machines,” Sandra Hassink, president of the AAP, said. “The American Academy of Pediatrics warns all parents that no child under the age of 16 should drive or ride an ATV.”
Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-atv-injuries-idUSKBN1A422F