July 2, 2007 -- All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) get lots of attention when it comes to off-road safety for children, but so should motorized dirt bikes, go-carts, and other vehicles, a new study shows.
The researchers estimate that from 1990 to 2003, more than a million kids and teens visited U.S. hospital emergency rooms because of accidents involving nonautomobile motorized vehicles including ATVs, dirt bikes, mopeds, go-carts, scooters, golf carts, riding lawn mowers, boats, dune buggies, mini bikes, trail bikes, farm vehicles, and snowmobiles.
The number of ATV and non-ATV injuries rose throughout the study period, with ATVs leading the injuries in all years studied.
In 1990, there were 33,500 ATV-related injuries and 14,000 non-ATV injuries. In 2003, there were 59,300 ATV injuries and 31,700 non-ATV injuries.
The researchers who conducted the study on kids' off-road injuries included Christy Collins, MA, of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
They reviewed information from a national hospital database and from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. Their findings, published in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics, include safety warnings for parents and kids.
Off-Road Safety Tips for Children
Based on the findings, the researchers make three recommendations to help prevent kids and teens from getting injured on ATVs and other motorized vehicles.
First, they recommend restricting kids younger than 16 from riding two-wheeled, three-wheeled, and four-wheeled motorized off-road vehicles.
Second, they urge children 16 and older to always wear appropriate protective gear, including helmets and eye protection, when riding ATVs and other motorized vehicles.
Third, "parents should be aware of the risk of injury that nonautomotive motorized vehicles pose to all children, including passengers and bystanders as well as drivers," they write.
ATVs and Other Off-Road Vehicles
Cuts, scrapes, fractures, sprains, and strains accounted for most injuries noted in the study. Patients were about 12 years old, on average. More than three-quarters were boys.
Roughly nine out of 10 children were treated and released from hospital emergency rooms.
However, the researchers estimate that 1,900 children died of their injuries. More than half of the deaths -- 58% -- were related to ATV use.
The study doesn't reflect accidents in which kids didn't seek emergency medical care.