Importance of ATV Safety Revs Up with These Latest Developments!
By Gerri Elder
A recent $20 million injury settlement involving a fatal Florida ATV accident and a study on Oklahoma ATV accidents during the last 29 months ultimately reveal just how dangerous unequipped all-terrain vehicles can be when driven with children as passengers.
In early April, a Pasco County jury awarded $20 million to the parents of a 13-year-old boy who was killed during a Florida ATV accident in 2002. Specifically, a recent St. Petersburg Times story detailed that Donald "D.J." Roberts was riding too fast with another friend on a nearby neighbor's ATV when he lost control and crashed head-first into a barbed wire fence.
D.J. Roberts was nearly decapitated during the ATV accident and died at the scene. The story did not reveal the identity of the friend, who survived the crash but also suffered injuries. Witnesses to the crash told police investigators that the boys were on the ATV without permission and warned by them to slow down on the vehicles. However, the boys did not listen according to the witnesses at the scene of the accident.
Donald and Terry Roberts, the parents of the deceased boy, filed a personal injury lawsuit seeking $20 million in 2004 against Timothy Mark Taylor, a man who they claimed invited the boys to ride on the 1986 ATV. While it was unknown whether Taylor owned the ATV, the family's personal injury lawsuit alleged that he was responsible for the vehicle and consequently failed to provide adult supervision, "properly secure" the ignition key, and keep the vehicle in a "safe" condition.
When neither Taylor nor any of his attorneys showed up in court for the personal injury lawsuit, the jury awarded the $20 million personal injury verdict to Donald and Terry Roberts. Hendrik Uiterwyk, the family's Tampa attorney, said in the story that while his clients may have prevailed with this settlement, no amount of money could ever bring back their son.
While this tragic case is a clear example of how allowing passengers on ATVs that are not equipped to do so can lead to serious personal injuries and even fatal outcomes, a recent 29-month study on Oklahoma ATV accidents further illustrates this point.
Oklahoma ATV Accidents Study Puts Disturbing Statistics to Such Dangers!
Earlier this week, the Oklahoma Department of Health released the findings of its nearly 2½ year study of ATV accidents in the state, and the results continue to teach this important lesson.
An AP story detailed how the Department of Health observed the treatment of Oklahoma ATV injuries at the trauma emergency center at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa. Specifically, the study found that nearly a quarter of the people who were treated for ATV injuries during this time period (approximately 48 of the 193 patients) were passengers on these recreational vehicles.
With that said, the report revealed that 75 percent of injured passengers in these ATV accidents were children. Seven of those injured passengers were children under the age of five years old!
Mark Brandenburg, a St. Francis emergency physician who led this study, said in the story that when you're talking about Oklahoma ATV accidents involving passengers, you're most often talking about children. He also added that ATVs rollover backwards several times in 63 percent of accidents.
Even prior to these revealing numbers, legislators in the Sooner State were attempting to prevent Oklahoma ATV injuries involving children. Specifically, Representative Bill Nations and state Senator Andrew Rice had sponsored a bill requiring children less than 18 years of age to wear helmets while riding on or operating ATVs on public land in the state. This ATV helmet bill would also ban the carrying of passengers on ATVs that are not designed to do so.
Rice has said that he sponsored this bill in large part to the deaths of six children in Oklahoma ATV accidents last year. This proposed Oklahoma ATV law would mandate a $25 fine for anyone who fails to comply with this rule. With that said, this proposed Oklahoma ATV law would not apply to use on private property.
This Oklahoma ATV helmet bill already passed the state House by an 82-16 vote last month and will soon be voted on by the Senate.
Proposed Oklahoma ATV Safety Law Is A Good But Far From Complete Step!
Rice revealed in an Insurance Journal story how Oklahoma currently has no safety requirements for ATV riders besides prohibiting them from operating these vehicles on paved road. While a bill requiring people under 18 to wear helmets when operating ATVs on public land in Oklahoma is a good start, it should not be the only measure made in the state as a recent fatal West Virginia ATV accident reveals.
On April 20th, a 14-year-old boy was killed during a West Virginia ATV accident. An online WSAZ story did not reveal the boy's identity but did say that he was riding an ATV through the woods with a friend as a passenger. When they went up an embankment, the ATV flipped over and threw off the passenger before landing on top of the boy. Despite wearing a helmet, the pressure from the ATV pushed the boy's head into a rock and caused a severe head injury. Unfortunately, the boy was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
So while requiring helmets for younger ATV riders is a good step, this story is further proof of the need for youngsters to be taught proper safety when driving these fun yet potentially dangerous vehicles!