ATVs Are Not For Kids

ATVs Are Not For Kids

Our abundance of open and public lands and parks contributes to the tri-state area’s prominent use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Unfortunately, this popularity has caused West Virginia to become a leader in the number of deaths and injuries due to ATV accidents, according to a report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As a result, ATV use by our youth is a health issue that affects West Virginia significantly more than other states. A survey done by the Future Farmers of America Association showed that children are riding as passengers on ATVs as young as seven years of age. The median age for childhood injuries on ATVs is 12 years old. Further studies performed by West Virginia University demonstrated that more than one-third of all significant injuries on ATVs occur in passengers.

Why should our youth avoid ATV use altogether? While there are several youth designed ATVs on the market that vary in speed, there has not been extensive testing for their safety in children.  Children riding vehicles that are too big for them creates a major safety hazard. The size of ATVs alone increases the chance for serious injury or death due to the chance of a vehicle roll over or launching the child from the vehicle after an accident.

Operating an ATV requires fast decision making, which younger ages are not capable of performing. Tragically, ATV injuries disproportionately affect our children. Nearly 33% of deaths and hospitalizations from all ATV accidents involve children. According to Dr. C. Jennissen, a leading pediatrician with the American Academy of Pediatrics and safety expert who studies ATV injuries, there are more pediatric deaths with ATV use compared to bicycle use.

As a pediatric resident, I often see children in pain with serious injuries related to ATV use. Worse outcomes have occurred including long-term debilitation and even death. It is a tragedy to see children robbed of their childhood and their overall quality of life.

Spring and summer is a great time for our children to be outdoors. As the warmer weather arrives and children are participating in outdoor activities, I encourage caretakers of children in our area to avoid the use of ATVs. The risk of injury or death is too high. Avoiding such tragedies will help our community’s children stay safe and have a bright and healthy future ahead of them.

This article was originally published by the Herald-Dispatch.


Ben Karabasz

Ben Karabasz, MD, is a pediatric resident at Marshall Health.