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MUSC, experts agree: ATVs too dangerous

Some parents view an ATV ride as an entertaining and fun family past-time. It’s not uncommon to see the all-terrain vehicle (ATV), or four-wheelers, ridden by children racing through local wilderness or suburban neighbor-hoods.
With the increase in ATV popularity, a rise in trips to the emergency room has followed. MUSC pediatric emergency specialists and community safety experts have taken an official stance on ATVs, asking that parents park the vehicles forever when it comes to the health and safety of their children.
“Children lack the strength, coordination, and judgment to operate ATVs safely,” said Children’s Hospital trauma coordinator Melanie Stroud, R.N. “For this reason, children have experienced rollover injuries in which they are crushed and trapped under the ATV. The result is devastating injuries, including crushed internal organs and multiple broken bones.” In the worst cases, children have died as a result of their injuries, she added.
During December 2007, Children’s Hospital cared for seven children with injuries related to ATV use, three of whom were severely injured. Those in the Pediatric Emergency Department say that number is seven too many.
“Injuries are the leading cause of death in children 1 to 18 years of age. Research shows that injuries to children from ATVs are increasing in number every year,” said Joseph Losek, M.D., Children’s Hospital Pediatric Emergency Medicine director.  
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reported that more than 2,000 children were killed in ATV crashes from 1982 to 2004. An estimated 45,000 are treated in emergency departments for ATV-related injuries each year. AAP emphasizes that injuries sustained by children riding an adult-sized ATV, including severe brain, spinal, abdominal, and complicated orthopaedic injuries often are very serious.
Along with Safe Kids Trident Area Coalition (part of Safe Kids Worldwide), AAP urges that children under 16 not be allowed on ATVs. “If you’re not old enough to drive a car on a paved road with traffic control devices, you’re certainly not old enough to drive a powerful open-seat vehicle at high speeds over dirt trails and wild terrain,” said Safe Kids Trident Area coordinator Kristin Wedding. “ATVs are very dangerous to children no matter what precautions you take. You could wear a helmet when you jump out a window, but that would not make it a safe activity.”
If parents continue to let their children operate ATVs, the following measures should be taken to minimize injury:
  • Parents and children should attend an ATV driver’s safety course
  • Constant adult supervision when children are on an ATV
  • Never let a child carry passengers, especially since ATVs are built for one rider
  • 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.

Friday, Feb. 8, 2008
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