A tragic accident involving an 11 year-old girl from Royse City, Texas, is a reminder about the dangers of allowing children to ride on all-terrain vehicles (ATV).
On July 5th, the child was riding with friends on an ATV when it overturned and fell on top of her. While a stranger worked furiously to free her, the ATV burst into flames. She was finally pulled free but suffered second, third and fourth degree burns on her body. Currently, she's in critical condition in a hospital burn unit.
Two days before, on July 3rd, a fourteen year-old boy from Brownwood, Texas, died after the utility terrain vehicle (UTV) he was riding on rolled over and fell on top of him. He was one of three teenage passengers. The other two teens were injured but survived.
No parent allows their child on an ATV believing they are going to be hurt or killed, but these types of accidents happen in the blink of an eye.
No matter how many times a child may have ridden on or driven an ATV, they are simply not safe for young children.
The authors of a new study out of Iowa note that since 2001, kids aged 15 and younger have represented nearly 30 percent of all ATV-related injuries and one-fifth of ATV-related deaths in the United States.
"More kids younger than 16 are dying from ATV crashes than from bicycle crashes. We talk a lot about bicycle safety, but there isn't enough discussed with kids and families about safety when riding an ATV," said study author Dr. Charles Jennissen, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
For this report, researchers surveyed adolescents at 30 schools across Iowa from November 2010 to April 2013.
About 77 percent of the students reported they had been on an ATV, even though adult-size ATVs come with labels clearly stating they should not be driven by anyone younger than 16.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend kids younger than 16 ride ATVs, but in rural areas many families are not following that recommendation," Jennissen said.
ATVs can be too large for smaller kids to handle safely, even if it's legal for them to be riding them. Safely operating an ATV requires the driver to make quick decisions, such as speeding up, slowing down, or shifting his or her weight in response to changes in the environment. Kids under 16 are unlikely to be able to make these choices or have the skills to carry them out.
Even some kids, 16 and older, are not always mature or strong enough to handle an ATV.
If you want to learn more about what can happen when children and ATVs share roads and open terrain together, read some of the heartbreaking stories listed on the website Concerned Families for ATV Safety at http://atvsafetynet.org/about.php.
None of these parents thought their child would die or be severely injured in an ATV accident.
ATVs roll easily and are very heavy (300 to 800 pounds). It's almost impossible for a child to lift an ATV off their body if it rolls over on them, even a strong adult will struggle to move an 800-pound vehicle that is upside down.
If your young child wants to ride on an ATV, heed the warning of the American Academy of Pediatrics and say no. They may not like your answer, but their anger is not as long lasting or as devastating as a fatal accident on an ATV.
Dennis Thompson, http://consumer.healthday.com
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