Children under 16 years old are legally allowed to operate an ATV on a dirt road as long as they wear a helmet. Over 136,000 Americans each year are injured or killed on ATV’s and more than 33% are under 16 years of age. That is over 45,000 children every year. Just this past weekend a 9-year-old died when the ATV she was on with her 11-year-old sister rolled. Her sister, who was thrown from the vehicle before it flipped, received non-life-threatening injuries.
ATV’s continue to get bigger and faster and therefore more dangerous yet parents are still allowing their children to operate the adult versions. I don’t know if that is what happened in this case but it is what happened to children in 90% of the cases in 2005.
Pediatricians, orthopedic surgeons, and other professionals want children under 16 to be banned from riding ATV’s due to how often they are injured or killed while doing so. Dr. T.S. Park, pediatric neurosurgeon-in-chief at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and his colleagues believe the following guidelines would reduce ATV-related injuries and deaths to children:
1. Banning children 16 and under from riding ATV’s.
2. Mandatory helmet laws.
3. Mandatory instruction and certification programs for owners and operators.
4. Prohibiting ATV’s from all public streets and highways.
Do we really need tougher legislation to tell us, as parents, when something isn’t safe for our kids? Children, especially those under 16, might and probably do need someone to tell them something isn’t safe for them. However, when we still have parents allowing their young children to operate these powerful vehicles despite all the warnings it seems maybe we do need the legislation.
Please exercise every caution when allowing your children to enjoy recreational activities and remember that even if your child has exhibited exceptional skills in operating ATV’s, the adult models are often too heavy and too powerful for children. It is my opinion that we don’t necessarily need more laws, just more common sense. What do you think?