Despite higher gasoline prices, ATVs remain very popular with both adults and kids. They are often used in outdoor activities, like hunting and camping, and sometimes are important tools or work. And, of course, riding ATVs is lots of fun! But we sometimes forget ATVs can be just plain dangerous - especially for young people. Nationwide, ATVs injure and kill thousands of children under the age of 16 every year. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have adopted formal policies recommending children under 16 not even drive ATVs.
Here are some of the facts about ATV use:
• 36 percent of farm youth operate ATVs. Farm youth are more likely to operate an ATV than a tractor.
• Males account for 69 percent of the estimated 2,246 non-fatal youth ATV-related injuries each year.
• Nearly half of youth ATV-related fatalities involve head and neck injuries. Most ATV-related injuries involve youth not wearing a helmet.
• Almost 90 percent of children under 16 injured in an ATV incident were riding an adult-sized ATV, vehicles weighing up to 1,000 pounds.
• Less than 4 percent of injured ATV riders participated in formal safety training.
• ATV operators under the age of 16 are 4.5 times more likely than older operators to receive injuries requiring emergency room treatment.
We, in 4-H, have developed an extensive ATV safety training program, so young
There are some basic facts to consider in ATV use. First, parents or guardians should not permit youngsters to ride an ATV not recommended for their age group. ATVs can be extremely powerful and difficult to operate. Just as you wouldn’t take a kid off a bicycle and stick him behind the wheel of a Toyota Tundra, you also need to match a rider to the right ATV. Even so, the ATV Safety Institute notes: "While a youth may be of the recommended age to ride a particular size of ATV, not all youngsters have the strength, skill or judgment necessary to operate an ATV."
Four-wheelers or ATVs also demand respect. Young people must have proper training, proper protective equipment and be able to fully understand the machine they are operating. Research has indicated major factors leading to injuries include driver misuse and inappropriate rider behavior, like recklessness.
Additional risk factors include driving at excessive speeds; not wearing protective gear, like helmets; accepting unnecessary risks; accepting passengers and improper supervision or training.
• Remember to make every ride a safe ride.
• Properly train and supervise drivers.
• Restrict the use of ATVs by children.
• Always wear personal protective equipment.
• Do not operate on paved roads.
• Refrain from unnecessary risks like performing stunts, using alcohol or drugs, excessive speeding and accepting riders.
• Do not operate an ATV in adverse weather conditions, insufficient light, hazardous terrain or an ATV in need of repair.
• Keep your ATV in good condition.
And check with your County Extension office about getting 4-H ATV training!
Until next time, God Bless!
James Shropshire is a Regional 4-H Extension Agent.