ATVs Pose a Safety Threat to Children

ATVs Pose a Safety Threat to Children

August 2014


With the onset of warmer weather, UW Medicine physicians at Harborview Medical Center start to see an increase in patients – especially children – that were severely injured while using all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). The trend is generating concern among local pediatric and trauma experts.

When young people operate ATVs, children often suffer from serious and fatal injuries, says Dr. Monica S. Vavilala, a UW Medicine anesthesiologist and Director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

“In particular, children under 16 years often do not have the maturity and do not necessarily follow safety rules, which means that they are at high risk for serious injuries,” says Vavilala.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a report that found that 44,000 children were hospitalized due to ATV accidents in 2005. Of these, children under 16 accounted for 30 percent of all off-road vehicle injuries, and one-third of all deaths involving ATV use have been in children younger than 16.

Head injuries account for most of the deaths. Even where helmets are required by law, they are often not worn, notes Vavilala.

Tips to reduce ATV-related accidents

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has called ATV use a significant threat to public health, and along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, has issued recommendations for ATV use by children that include:

  • Prohibit the use of four-wheel off-road vehicles to children younger than 16.
  • Children not licensed to drive a car should not be allowed to operate off-road vehicles.
  • Injuries occur frequently to passengers; therefore riding double should not be permitted.
  • All riders should wear approved safety helmets, protective eyewear and protective, reflective clothing. Helmets should be size appropriate, designed for motorcycle (not bicycle) use, and should feature a visor/face shield.
  • Engine covers on small two-wheeled vehicles, such as mopeds and mini-bikes, may reduce burn injuries, and sturdy leg guards are recommended to protect riders from sideswiping or brush injuries.

“Despite industry warnings and public education efforts, ATV-related injuries and fatalities continue to occur among too many children and teens,” Vavilala says. “Often these serious injuries have lifelong consequences for children and their families. Because laws vary from state to state, parents and communities need to step in to reduce the risk ATVs pose to children and teens.”

For additional ATV safety tips or to make an appointment with a primary care physician, call 855-520-5151.

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M.D., Anesthesiologist and Director of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center

Patient Care Philosophy I believe in patient-centered care, where the team of health-care providers strives to provide evidence-based medical care to improve outcomes.

Clinical Interests Neuroanesthesia and pediatric trauma.

Research Interests Acute care of traumatic brain injury, outcomes after traumatic brain injury and the translation of evidence-based guidelines into practice.


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