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Children should not ride, drive ATVs

Many families associate fun in the sun with riding three and four-wheel vehicles.

Farmers, ranchers, and other workers also use ATVs.

Safe Kids Kansas recommends that children younger than 16 should never ride on, or operate, ATVs of any size — including youth-sized ATVs.

“ATVs are inherently difficult to operate, and children do not have the cognitive and physical abilities to drive or ride these vehicles safely,” Cherie Sage, state director of Safe Kids Kansas said. “If you’re not old enough to drive a car with safety belts on a paved road with traffic control devices, you’re certainly not old enough to drive a powerful open-seat vehicle at speeds up to 70 mph over rough terrain.”

Nationwide, approximately 130 children under the age of 16 die each year because of ATV-related injuries, and an estimated 40,000 children are seriously injured. While a helmet can reduce the risk of severe head injuries, there is no safety devices that adequately protect against other injuries commonly sustained while riding ATVs.

The number of ATV-related injuries per year more than doubled between 1993 and 2006. In 2007, children accounted for one out of four ATV-related injuries. Beginning in 1998, the ATV industry observed voluntary guidelines restricting the sale of adult-sized ATVs (with engines larger than 90cc) for use by children under the age 16, but compliance testing form the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) showed numerous instances of noncompliance with the voluntary standard.

“Previous efforts to make ATVs safer for kids have proved inadequate and have not kept children out of the emergency room,” Safe said. “Children can be seriously injured even on ATVs manufactured and marketed for kids.”

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 rider more than 16 years of age.

“We know it’s not the advice a lot of parents want to hear, but it’s the conclusion we’ve drawn from extensive and ongoing review of the data,” Sage said.

Last modified July 16, 2009

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