ATV-Related Injuries Have Reached All-Time High
In 2007, admissions for ATV-related injuries at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC already have reached an all-time high with two months remaining in the year.
Through November, 83 patients have been admitted to Children's Hospital for serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries sustained in ATV crashes, compared with 72 in all of 2006.
"Despite many warnings about the dangers of kids riding on and driving ATVs, every year we continue to see this tragic increase in the number of young children injured, often with injuries that lead to permanent disabilities or can even be fatal," said Barbara Gaines, MD, director of the Benedum Pediatric Trauma Program at Children's. "This year we've treated kids as young as 2 who were passengers on ATVs and, in some instances, kids as young as 5 and 6 were driving these powerful machines designed for adults."
ATVs can travel up to 60 miles per hour and can weigh more than 700 pounds. Most of the injuries treated at Children's are caused by ATVs rolling over on the rider or driver or colliding with a stationary object such as a tree, says Dr. Gaines. The injuries these crashes cause include devastating head and facial injuries, internal injuries, severe fractures and spinal injuries leading to paralysis.
According to a report from the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission, Pennsylvania ranks second in the nation in deaths involving ATVs with 214 deaths from 1982-1999. Nationwide, ATV crashes cause about 250 deaths and about 65,000 injuries each year. About 40 percent of all deaths and injuries occur in children younger than 16.
"Ideally, no child under the age of 16 should ever operate or ride on an ATV. They are simply not big enough to control the vehicle, and they don't yet have the cognitive skills to avoid crashes," Dr. Gaines said. "But we know that despite these alarming statistics, kids younger than 16 are going to ride and drive them. And when they do, we're seeing some of the most devastating outcomes."