Kids May Not Handle Motorbikes Safely

Best to Wait Until Kids Get Driver's Licenses, Say Researchers

From the WebMD Archives

March 8, 2005 -- It's time to put the brakes on kids riding motorbikes, say three Ohio doctors.

"Children should not operate motorbikes until they are old enough to obtain a motor vehicle driver's license, which occurs at a minimum of 16 years of age," write Wendy Pomerantz, MD, MS, and colleagues.

The doctors don't blame the bikes. Instead, they question whether kids can handle the horsepower, and they want children to wear helmets whenever they ride.

Motorbikes, including motorcycles and dirt bikes, are becoming increasingly common, the researchers say. Although a license is required to drive a car, a child can drive a motorbike without a license.

Just about everyone agrees that helmets can save lives. It's a basic safety rule recommended by virtually every industry, safety, and medical expert. Wear a helmet every time you ride. Whether you're on a bike, motorcycle, or horse, helmets are invaluable if you fall.

But a lot of young motorbike riders don't do that, the doctors found.

Motorbike Accidents Rising

The researchers studied a snapshot of motorbike accidents among 182 Ohio children from 1995-2001. The number rose by about 50% during that time.

One child died, and eight required rehabilitation. Nearly seven out of 10 of injured riders sustained multiple injuries. Riders not wearing helmets had more serious injuries.

The data came from six Ohio hospitals. The numbers only include riders younger than 16 who were admitted to the hospitals. Those treated and released from emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and doctors' offices weren't included.

The statistics cover accidents on motorbikes (motorized minibikes, minicycles, trail bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles). The figures appear in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Most Common Motorbike Injuries

The most commonly injured body parts were:

  • Lower extremities (23%)
  • Head (22%)
  • Abdomen/pelvis (13%)
  • Upper extremities (12%)
  • Face (12%)

The most common injuries were:

  • Fractures (37%)
  • Abrasions/contusions (24%)
  • Lacerations (13%)
  • Intracranial injuries (8%)
  • Abdominal organ injuries (8%)

Most Injured: Urban White Boys

Almost 90% of kids and teens hurt in motorbike accidents were white boys.

The injured riders were about 11 years old, on average. Sixty percent of the accidents happened from May through June -- something to keep in mind as warmer months arrive.

The injuries didn't all happen off-road. Nearly 36% took place on the streets, according to the 152 cases reporting accident locations.

Where's the Helmet?

More than half (53%) of the hurt riders weren't wearing helmets. That's based on the 152 injured kids who provided information on what -- if any -- safety precautions they'd taken.

Those kids weren't breaking Ohio laws. Ohio doesn't require motorbike riders to wear helmets. In fact, the state has no laws about minibikes, minicycles, and trail bikes, say the doctors.

They want to see that change. They back mandatory helmet laws, saying that helmets are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries and 29% effective in preventing motorcycle deaths.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Pomerantz, W. Pediatrics, March 2005; vol 115: pp 704-709. News release, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
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