By Jasmine York
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are everywhere, and plenty of teens have the chance to ride or drive one. Make sure you and your teens understand the dangers associated with ATV accidents and the ways to prevent and protect against them before they hop on-board.
One weekend while at a farm with a group of friends from church, I decided to ride a four-wheeler. I took the wheel despite the fact that I had no experience and only weighed about 105 pounds; many ATVs weigh up to 900 pounds. The fun and excitement awaited before me. I just had to give it a try.
I judged my probability of success based on how well a couple of my other inexperienced friends did while driving the ATV. I determined that it was simple enough and I was ready. I strapped on a helmet and obeyed the counsel of a more experienced rider, who told me to lean in when I turned. I clung to his advice probably as tightly as I clung to the handle bars.
My best friend was anxious to tag along with me, so she jumped on the back and wrapped her arms around my waist. We voyaged through the woods, bounced over the dips in the dirt path, and swiveled around the curves of nature. We finished the first lap successfully, so we decided to go again — only this time little faster. When we cruised along a curve, my friend and I leaned opposite ways, consequently flipping the ATV over.
I just remember she let go, and when she let go, so did I. The ATV flung both of us in the air. I banged my head on the ground near the base of a nearby tree. The ATV ran over my legs, ripped my jeans, and skinned the inside of my thigh. Thankfully my friend was fine and was there to help me up. I was able to walk away, with only a sprained ankle.
Sadly, too many victims don’t walk away from ATV accidents. Studies in Pediatrics medical journal indicate that “more than 361,000 children were seriously injured in all-terrain vehicle accidents in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010.”
Two-thirds of children hospitalized during that time period were between the ages of 11 and 15 years old. A majority of injuries involving children were caused by the ATV rolling over, which suggests to researchers that a rider-vehicle mismatch is behind the bulk of child-related injuries.
ATVs are not as stable as other vehicles, and since children under 15 typically don’t even have their licenses, they lack the physical and cognitive ability to operate ATVs properly. Many consumer safety departments warn against children riding ATVs and suggest that riders use vehicles that are appropriate for their age and weight.
Good news has been surfacing as a result of the recent increase in “rider education, parental supervision, and state legislation,” as noted by the ATV Public Safety Institute. There has been an almost 50 percent decline in the number of ATV-related deaths and injuries over the last few years
If riders operate within the limitations of each ATV and wear the proper protective gear, they can not only stay safe, but also have fun.
RIDE ONE ON ONE
In addition to riding ATVs that are age and weight appropriate, there should never be more than one rider on a single-passenger vehicle.
AVOID PAVED ROADS
Never ride ATVs on paved roads since accidents on them have been linked to the more severe injuries and deaths.
It’s important to wear safety gear since a lot of ATVs don’t have seat belts. Always wear a helmet, and if possible, get one with a frontal shield or wear goggles to protect eyes from debris.
Parent to Parent
Laura Silver’s daughter Ellie was involved in an ATV accident in September 2011, which resulted in part of her leg having to be amputated. Laura called it “a freak accident” saying that Ellie has had plenty of experience riding ATVs prior to the event, from riding in her dad’s lap when she was younger to riding on her own. Laura advises other parents to make sure their children “ride one with seatbelts and doors” in addition to wearing a helmet.