ATV Use For Children Under 16 Continues Despite Injuries, Warnings, Sales Bans
October 22, 2012

ATV Use For Children Under 16 Continues Despite Injuries, Warnings, Sales Bans

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have been around for more than 40 years, and have provided enjoyment for millions of people here in the US and abroad, offering many practical uses. While these off-road vehicles have been widely used for hunting, sporting, racing, and just plain-old recreation, they have become increasingly dangerous for younger users, who often do not have the strength and experience to handle such powerful machines.

With more than 1,150 children under the age of 16 being killed in ATV-related accidents between 2000 and 2007, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) started prohibiting (under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act) the sale of adult-sized ATVs (which commonly weigh in excess of 800 pounds and can attain speeds of up to 80 mph) for use by children 16 and under.

The act, mandated in 2009, requires manufacturers and dealers to provide safety materials and rider training to first time ATV purchasers and their immediate family.

However, according to a new study, the new laws have been largely ineffective. In fact, researchers conducting the study have found that most ATV sellers are willing to discuss selling a quad-bike for use by a child under 16.

The research, being presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, showed that when team members posed as parents interested in buying an adult-sized ATV for their 12-year-old son, 70 percent (about 35 of 50 dealerships visited in four states) of the dealers were willing to discuss a sale. When the faux-parents commented on the vehicle seat being long enough for the boy to give his 8-year-old sibling a ride, only 14 percent (7 dealership employees) told the researchers that the ATV should not have extra riders, as most traditional ATVs have only one seat intended for a single rider.

When the researchers asked: “My 12-year-old is interested in driving his ATV in a public off-highway vehicle park. Are there any around here?” only one dealer brought up the need for ATV safety-training for a 12-year-old rider. Interestingly, dealers who were resistant to discussing the sale of a new ATV had no problem showing the potential buyers a used vehicle, which is not covered under the 2009 federal law.

Study author Charles A. Jennissen, MD, FAAP, said in a press release it was surprising to see a large percentage of dealers willing to discuss the sale of an adult-sized ATV for a 12-year-old. “There also appears to be a don't ask, don't tell relationship between seller and buyer, with sellers not typically asking buyers about the age of potential child users, which limits the impact of regulation enforcement.”

“Dealers are there to sell vehicles, although they could be very important partners in preventing child ATV injuries and deaths,” explained Jennissen.

In a study of ATV crashes involving children, coinciding Jennissen´s research, researchers found that less than 37 percent of children were wearing helmets when injured in an accident, and nearly 60 percent were riding again within six months.

Nearly 40 percent of all ATV injuries and fatalities occur in children under the age of 16 despite the increased warnings and new regulations from the AAP and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In this study, led by Rebeccah L. Brown, MD, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, researchers surveyed children who were hospitalized at a Level I trauma center following an ATV accident between 2004 and 2009. Families of these children were also questioned about injuries, cause of the accident, ATV features, risk-taking behaviors and safety practices. Follow-up phone interviews were also conducted six months out from the initial questioning.

Of those surveyed, parents of 44 children completed both the initial survey and the follow-up phone interview. Based on surveys answers, most injuries included head/neck (34.7%), chest (10.2%), abdomen (10.2%), fractures (30.6%), and soft tissue injuries (14.3%). Injuries resulted in collisions (36%), rollovers (32%), and ATV fall-offs (23%).

In most of the cases reported (82%), the child was driving the ATV when the accident occurred, and 61 percent of the respondents acknowledged the presence of a warning label on the ATV, warning against use of the machine by children under 16 years of age and against carrying passengers. In most of the cases (79.5%), the children were given permission to ride the ATVs. 63.6% were under adult supervision when injured. None of the respondents reported taking formal course training for safe ATV operation, although 47% reportedly received training from a friend or relative.

According to the research, 77.6% reported frequent use of safety equipment. However, only 36.7% were actually wearing helmets at the time of the accidents. The most shocking revelation was that 59% of respondents said their children were back on ATVs within six months of their injuries, with no significant change in their risk-taking behaviors, including using helmets and other safety equipment. Also, parents reported their children continued to carry or ride as passengers on ATVs despite the warnings against it.

“Although ATVs have surged in popularity over the past several years, they pose significant dangers for children 16 and under who simply do not have the physical strength, cognitive skills, maturity or judgment to safely operate ATVs,” said Brown in a press release. “These are hefty motorized vehicles that weigh up to 600 pounds and are capable of reaching speeds of up to 85 miles per hour.”

Being that “warning labels are largely ineffective,” Brown said that “mandatory safety courses and licensing, and enforceable helmet legislation, are needed to reduce ATV use by children.”