After the recent batch of storms, it’s understandable why muddy conditions and a sudden burst of warm weather can be enticing to young all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders. However, ATV injuries involving children are all too common this time of year at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. The hospital is seeing at least one injury per week.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission says ATV-related deaths involving children increase 30 percent nationally during spring months. Tennessee ranks among the top 10 for ATV-related fatalities among children.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for all ATV riders to be 16 or older, doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital are offering tips for children to stay safe this season. In addition, Children’s Hospital is partnering with the Tennessee 4-H Youth Development Program to offer free ATV safety courses for children and their families, which will be available at multiple sites in the Middle Tennessee area.
“ATVs can go as fast as a car and offer little protection for riders,” says Barbara Shultz, R.N., director of Emergency Services for Children’s Hospital. “Considering the speed and weight of these vehicles compared to the kids, injuries can be very severe, and potentially life-threatening, if proper precautions are not taken.”
Shultz says head injuries are the No. 1 injury for children riding ATVs, and the most lethal. Additionally, she says, children younger than 12 lack the muscle tone and depth perception needed to properly operate an ATV, and that good judgment doesn't fully develop until adulthood.
Children’s Hospital is offering the following ATV safety tips for parents and children:
• Always wear a helmet and other protective gear, including goggles, chest gear and gloves.
• Choose an age-appropriate ATV and enforce a low speed limit for your child.
• Take a hands-on safety training course like the one offered by Tennessee’s 4-H Safety Program.
• Do not include more than one passenger on the vehicle.
• Refrain from driving ATVs on pavement. They should be operated off-road at all times.
• Always supervise children when they are operating these vehicles.
• Survey the riding environment to identify potential risks, including fences, holes and puddles.
The free ATV training classes offered by Tennessee’s 4-H Safety Program, titled “RiderCourse,” includes tips on riding preparations, starting and stopping, quick turns, hill riding, emergency stopping, swerving and riding over obstacles. Students also learn about protective gear, local regulations, places to ride and environmental concerns. A parent must be present for riders younger than 12, and parents are encouraged to be present for riders under 16.
For more information on how to enroll in the RiderCourse nearest you, contact Martin Koon at (615) 832-6550.