Surge in Child ATV Injuries Likely Linked to Pandemic, Experts Say

national motorsports awareness month

By Zachary D. Campbell, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham

The typical summer surge in all-terrain vehicle (ATV) injuries kicked off early this year, as children were out of school due to COVID-19 and parents struggled with juggling child care and working from home.

ATVs are not child-friendly toys, they are designed as an off-road vehicle that can be viewed as a fun outdoor adventure for the entire family. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 16 should not operate ATVs.

Dr. Charles Jennissen, a pediatric emergency physician and clinical professor in the departments of pediatric and emergency medicine at University of Iowa, Carver College of Medicine, started a collaborative study with Injury Free Coalition for Kids to compare injuries during COVID-19 to a year ago. Dr. Jennissen said that overall injuries, including ATV-related injuries, are probably four to five times higher this year because many don’t go to the ER.

In the U.S., about 40,000 children under the age of 16 are treated in emergency departments for ATV-related injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were 3,353 ATV-related deaths involving children (21% of the 15,744 total deaths) between 1982 and 2018.

Although some ATVs are designed for younger children to ride, strict precautions and adult supervision should be adhered too. ATVs with a saddle-seat and handle bars are relatively unsteady. They have a high center of gravity and narrow track, a combination that makes them a very high risk for rolling over. Having the right safety equipment and information can help ensure your adventure doesn’t turn into a trip to the hospital, or even worse.

10 Safety Tips for ATV Riders

An educational program called STARs, provides safety tips for ATV riders. Some of their safety tips include:

  • Always wear your helmet
  • One person at a time
  • Ride the right size machine
  • Always wear your protective gear
  • Never ride on the road
  • Take an ATV safety course
  • Tell someone where you are going
  • Respect private property
  • Never use alcohol or drugs
  • Always obey the rules

The ATV Safety Institute also provides invaluable tips and safety courses for ATV riders. If you plan to hit the off roads on an ATV, consider enrolling in a course to practice basic safety tips and proper riding techniques. A hands-on ATV Rider Course and a free online ATV e-Course are offered for all ages and experience levels.

An inspection of your ATV before each ride is essential because the off-highway environment can be harsh on vehicles. An inspection can minimize the chance of being injured or stranded. The owner’s manual will show you what equipment to check on your particular machine. The basic items to inspect include: tires and wheels, controls and cables, lights and electrics, oil and fuel, chain/driveshaft and chassis.

Familiarize yourself with how to operate an ATV before driving it. Try a flat and even terrain on your first trip rather than attempting an advanced or dangerous trail. If you are driving a single-rider ATV, you should never carry another passenger. Likewise, if you are driving a two-person ATV, do not exceed two riders (only one driver and one passenger).

Since ATVs are designed to be operated off of the streets, the Institute recommends never riding on paved roads except to cross when done safely and, of course, when permitted by law. Most cities and local governments have strict laws prohibiting the use of ATVs on paved roadways.

Each state has its own ATV laws, including both safety and equipment requirements. Click here to view Pennsylvania’s ATV laws and requirements. If you’re taking your ATV on vacation, make sure you know the rules before you hitch up the trailer.

Remember, no matter what state you are in, do not ride an ATV under the influence. Drugs, alcohol, and ATVs never mix; you can be arrested and charged for driving an ATV while intoxicated just as you can in a vehicle or a motorcycle.

Most importantly, remember that YOU are your child’s role model. Make sure that you are also following the recommended guidelines for riding gear and safety rules. The Institute recommends always wearing the proper equipment including goggles, long sleeve shirts, long pants, boots, gloves, and a helmet.

So parents/guardians, set ground rules, gear up, and get ready to ride on the trail to safety. We at Metzger Wickersham wish you a safe and enjoyable off-roading adventure.

If you or someone you know, has been injured in an ATV or motorcycle accident, contact Metzger Wickersham. Call us at (888)-286-2850 or email us to schedule your free consultation today.

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