increase in injuries related to all-terrain vehicles (ATV)
Dayton Children’s emergency department has seen an increase in injuries related to all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riding, dirt bikes and golf carts.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2018, there were an estimated 81,800 ATV-related emergency department-treated injuries in the United States. An estimated 26 percent of these injuries involved children younger than 16 years of age. From April to June this year, 22 children had to be admitted to Dayton Children’s Hospital for ATV, dirt bike and go-cart injuries.
A child is four times more likely to be seriously injured than a rider older than 16.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children who are not licensed to drive a car should not be allowed to operate off-road vehicles because their nervous systems and judgment have not fully developed.
"ATVs are inherently difficult to operate, and children do not have the cognitive and physical abilities to drive or ride these vehicles safely," said Lisa Schwing, RN, trauma program manager at Dayton Children's. "If you're not old enough to drive a car with safety belts on a paved road with traffic control devices, you're certainly not old enough to drive a powerful open-seat vehicle at speeds up to 70 miles per hour over rough terrain."
Rollovers, collisions and ejections involving ATVs and dirt bikes can cause deadly head injuries as well as serious nonfatal injuries to the head, spinal cord and abdomen. While a helmet can reduce the risk of damage to a child’s head, there is no safety device that adequately protects against other injuries commonly sustained while riding ATVs.
"We know it's not the advice a lot of parents want to hear, especially if ATVs are commonly used by friends and family, but it's the conclusion we've drawn from an extensive and ongoing review of the data," said Schwing.
"If you want our opinion as safety experts, there is simply no way to make ATV riding a safe activity for children."
For those older than 16 who chose to drive an ATV, Schwing offers eight safety tips:
- Always wear a helmet – consider other protective gear as well; goggles, boots, gloves, pants and long sleeve shirts.
- Ride responsibly.
- Never allow more riders than the ATV was designed for.
- If riding alone, make sure someone knows where you are going.
- If you are riding with other ATV riders, make a clear route to avoid crashing into another ATV.
- Stay off paved roads or sidewalks.
- Do not ride at night.
- Get training from a qualified instructor.
For more information on ATV safety, please visit our FAQ page.