ATVs, whether for recreation or an occupation, are part of daily life in North Carolina – Safe Kids Wake County recommends that children under the age of 16 should never ride on or operate ATVs of any size – including youth-sized ATVs.
Nationwide, approximately 130 children under the age of 16 die each year as a result of ATV-related injuries, and an estimated 40,000 children under the age of 16 are seriously injured each year in ATV-related incidents.
Over the past five years at WakeMed, we have treated 201 ATV-related trauma patients. Of these, 73 were under 18 years of age and 39 were wearing helmets. And, although helmets can reduce the risk of severe head injuries, there are no safety devices that adequately protect against other injuries commonly sustained while riding ATVs.
ATVs are inherently difficult to operate, and children do not have the cognitive and physical abilities to drive or ride these vehicles safely. If an individual is not mature enough to drive a car with safety belts and traffic control devices on a paved road, that individual is probably not capable enough to drive a powerful open-seat vehicle at speeds up to 70 miles per hour over rough terrain.
This may not be the advice a lot of parents want to hear, especially if ATVs are commonly used by friends and family, but it’s the conclusion drawn from extensive and ongoing review of the data. The opinion of safety experts is that there is simply no way to make ATV riding a safe activity for children.
Rollovers, collisions and ejections involving ATVs can cause instantly fatal head injuries as well as serious nonfatal injuries to the head, spinal cord and abdomen. A child riding an ATV is four times more likely to be seriously injured than a rider over the age of 16.
For more information about ATVs and outdoor recreation safety visit www.safekids.org.
Sylvia Scholl is WakeMed’s Trauma Program Director.