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Features : Medical News Last Updated: Aug 15, 2012 - 10:02:35 AM

A question for children: ATV or not to ATV?
By Dr. Canivan Parkwood Pediatric Group
Aug 15, 2012 - 10:01:40 AM

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With our wonderful weather throughout the year, families take full advantage of the great outdoors - some by riding all-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs.  This can be considered exhilarating, good clean family fun; however, many people are not aware of the risks that come along with riding ATVs.  ATVs are inherently dangerous because of their high center of gravity, instability, lack of rear wheel differential and significant weight (some are more than 800 pounds).  
These factors, combined with the high rates of speed and common use by children, have been called a “perfect storm” for childhood injury.  In fact, according to National Electronic Surveillance Systems US Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the United States between 2005 and 2010, 689 children under the age of six died due to ATV accidents.  Most children seen in emergency departments for ATV-related injuries have moderate to severe injuries, including spinal injuries, crushing abdominal injuries and head trauma.  
ATV riding carries with it nearly twice the risk of snowboarding and football, and three times the risk of skateboarding, but with none of the cardiovascular benefits. One out of every 10,000 ATV injuries will result in death.  Would you buy a crib or a bicycle with that associated statistic?  
ATV manufacturers have had to respond to public outcry, and in 1988 a federal investigation led to the development of a voluntary standard. This standard stipulated, somewhat arbitrarily, age limits for certain engine sizes.  Many, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, feel  this falls far short and no one, NO ONE, under 16 should ride an ATV.
Many states legally forbid anyone under 16 years of age to operate an ATV and require special driver certification.  In South Carolina, there was no legislation until July 2011, when Chandler’s Law was adopted.  Now, parents can “just say no” and blame the law, which states that NO children under six are allowed to drive an ATV. It also mandates that children six to 15 must obey the age restrictions marked on the vehicle; must wear a motorcycle helmet and eye protection; must take a safety training course and cannot carry passengers.
ATV courses are affordable and are offered at various sites in South Carolina through 4H programs and the ATV Safety Institute. For families who choose to pursue ATV riding, a few tips will make the activity less risky:  
-no nighttime use
-no use on paved roads
-no passengers
-maintain trails where ATVs will be used
-wear a motorcycle helmet and eye protection
-follow the age limits designated on the vehicle
-purchase an ATV with a seat belt, roll bar, headlights and a speed governor
-all drivers should undergo ATV driver safety training (ATV safety institute)
Remember, have fun but stay smart and safe.
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