During the spring and summer months many people drive their All Terrain Vehicles (ATV). Sadly, there are always reports of ATV related accidents and/or deaths. I thought it would be a good time to discuss ATV safety, particularly among children and youth. Below are some ATV-related facts compiled and adapted from the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Safe Kids Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society.
The Facts about ATV related injuries:
All-terrain vehicles (ATV) can weigh up to six hundred pounds and travel as fast as 90 km per hour. Between 1996 and 2001, hospitalizations for ATV injuries increased by over 50 %. About 15 people each day are seen in Ontario emergency departments for injuries related to ATVs. In 2005, there were 5,584 Emergency Department(ED) visits and 579 hospitalizations for ATV related injuries. The majority of those requiring urgent medical attention were ATV drivers ATV’s are now the third most common cause of serious injuries to riders between the ages of 5 and 19 years old. Tragically, almost 25% of ATV-related deaths in Canada are among children under 15 years of age.
ATV’s and Children and Youth
While ATVs are intended for off-road use, they are still motorized vehicles and require identical skill and judgment as motorcycles and cars. Children and youth under 16 years of age have not yet acquired the necessary logical thinking, judgment skills, and physical strength to safely drive an ATV.
Physically, children and youth:
- Do not see fine details and similar shades of color the way adults see them, which means that they may have difficulty distinguishing an object from its background. This is dangerous for a child riding in or around a forest. To a child, the whole scenery seems to blend in.
- May not see what is next to them the way adults can because their peripheral vision is about two-thirds of an adult’s.
- Have great hearing skills but their sense of sound localization is not yet developed.
- Have much slower reflexes than the average adult, which make them react slower to unexpected events.
Psychologically, children and youth:
- Can’t effectively anticipate hazards or potential problems before they happen.
- Lack the sense of speed and distance.
- Lack the sense of danger.
- Tend to overestimate their own skills and tend to act on a friend’s dare.
- Are easily distracted by things they like and enjoy, such as wildlife or even other riders.
- Have a false sense of security, which makes them assume that other riders (ATV or other motorized vehicles) see them and will look out for them.
- Love to be on the move. Their restlessness makes them impatient (it could make them speed or not wait long enough to let cars pass by before crossing the street).
The Bottom Line:
Children and youth should be at least 16 years of age before driving any ATV. At this age, their physical and psychological maturity is developed enough to help them understand the consequences and the dangers of these machines, which makes it safer for themselves as well as others around them.
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.