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Emergency Department Doctor Cautions Against Dangers of ATVs

Madison, Wisconsin - All-terrain vehicles are commonly used in Wisconsin, both on farms and for recreation. But the American Family Children’s Hospital emergency medical staff says there has been a cluster of children who have been injured, or killed, during ATV use recently, prompting reminders from trauma physicians and nurses.

In March and April, five children were treated for injuries at the hospital’s pediatric emergency department after riding on or driving ATVs. A 9-year-old Lafayette County child died from his injuries. In all of last year, 13 children were treated at American Family Children’s Hospital emergency department from injuries related to ATV use.

The Safe Kids Coalition says that an estimated 130 children in the U.S. die in each year and approximately 40,000 children under the age of 16 are seriously injured in ATV-related incidents.

“We need to keep sending the message that ATVs are motorized vehicles that are difficult to operate safely and require special training and safety equipment, especially helmets,” said Dr. Joshua Ross, medical director of pediatric emergency medicine at American Family Children’s Hospital.

Under Wisconsin law, children younger than 12 may operate small ATVs (90 cc or under) on open and public land and while under the direct direction or control by a parent. Children aged 12 and older must attend a certified safety training course to ride independently. However, Wisconsin law does not require training or safety equipment for kids who operate ATVs on family farms.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources strongly recommends training and helmet use in all circumstances and that adults set a good example for young riders. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) takes a much stronger stance than Wisconsin law, saying that children younger than 16 that are not licensed to drive a car should not be allowed to operate off-road vehicles.

For licensed drivers 16 and older, the AAP recommends safety equipment including a motorcycle (not bicycle) helmet, eye protection and protective, reflective clothing. Most injuries and deaths related to ATV use happen when drivers lose control and the vehicle rolls over or collide with fixed objects, according to the AAP.

“Even with a helmet and other safety equipment, there is no guarantee that a child operating an ATV will be safe,” said Ross. “A child is physically smaller with developing motor skills and immature judgment making the use of ATVs inherently dangerous.”

Ross said that a family discussion about kids using ATVs is very important, regardless of whether it’s for recreation or to support a family’s livelihood.


Date Published: 05/10/2012

News tag(s):  pedsERjoshua c ross