Kansas and Missouri residents enjoy a plethora of wide open spaces. It is in those spaces that many area youth love to tear up the country side on all terrain vehicles (ATVs) like four-wheelers, three wheelers, and dirt bikes. Every year, more and more children are allowed to play on these machines. Too many people fail to see them as little more than toys.
But few toys cause 150 deaths every year. More than 10,000 children under the age of sixteen have been killed on ATVS since official records began tracking the totals in the 1980s. A survey from Johns Hopkins University reported that the amounts of deaths from ATV accidents have doubled since 1996.
Many unskilled children take control of these machines. Kids will ride these vehicles in off-road conditions where they are easily rolled or wrecked in ditches, ruts, over hills, and even through brush and undergrowth. The power in the machines often incites kids to jump the vehicles over hills and other natural ramps. The resulting injuries include broken bones, internal injuries and concussions. Lacerations, internal abdominal injuries, severe bruising and other injuries are a common sight in the emergency rooms that treat the thousands of kids that come in every year after a bad experience with an ATV. Paralysis and death are possible outcomes of these injuries.
ATVs are often driven by children too young to even be considered for a driver's license, yet they are given full access and control to these machines that are prone to flipping over and rolling. There is little protection for young children who roll the vehicles or lose control. ATVs can reach speeds above 50 MPH. Few parents would ever conceive of the idea of allowing their children to drive a car at that speed through an open field, and cars have air bags and seat belts, as well as closed cabins.
One of the biggest dangers to kids is when a small child is given free rein on an adult sized machine. Many safety groups like Concerned Families for ATV Safety would like to see the use of ATVs limited to children older than age 16. According to the Government Accountability Office, a recent operation in four states found that seven out of ten ATV dealers readily offered adult sized machines to customers who planned to allow young children to use the machines.
The ATV industry markets the vehicles to younger and younger consumers, some even as young as five years old. Smaller ATVs are supposed to be safer, but even these smaller models can weigh hundreds of pounds and cause life threatening injuries.
Safety advocates recommend that all ATV riders use proper safety gear, including helmets. Further, riders should participate in an ATV safety course; a move that many would like to see made a requirement for ATV purchases. More importantly, it is strongly suggested that children under 16 never be allowed on an ATV.
Accident victims injured while riding ATVs face long-term and devastating problems. Traumatic brain injuries are common for ATV accident victims, and with that can come years and years of medical treatment and suffering.
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