Study Reports Rise in ATV Accidents among Children
By Gerri Elder
Summer is a time when many people are out enjoying the great outdoors. With this rise in outdoor hobbies and activities comes a rise in outdoor-related accidents. Boat accidents, for example, are at their seasonal high during the summer, as well as other watercraft.
And now, you can add all-terrain vehicles to that list. Recent reports from state offices all paint a similar picture of the drastic increases in ATV accidents and deaths since 2000. Additionally, young children are the concern in most reports, as they are most at risk for accident and accidents involving young children are more likely to include a fatality.
A study recently conducted by the Injury Control Research Center in West Virginia found that there was a 24% increase in deaths of children under the age of 16 from 2000-2004. The study compared ATV deaths with those caused by a more familiar mode of child transportation: bicycles. By comparison, ATV deaths involving children under 16 averaged 171 annually during this period, while bicycle deaths in the same period averaged 14 fewer, at 151. This discrepancy comes despite the drastically higher number of bicycle riders versus ATV riders: approximately 14.2 million children in the age group ride bicycles, while only 2.2 million ride ATVs.
Officials in the state of Kansas have recently released a similar report of ATV use among children in their own state. The report cites statistics from the Kansas State Department of Transportation that show a grim picture in the number and type of accidents involving ATVs in the state. According to state records, there have been 595 ATV accidents since 2000, and a full one-third of these involved children under the age of 16.
However, there is some response among social activist groups to enact laws that would attempt to curb these disturbing totals. A bill proposed in the South Carolina Senate would require children under 16 to pass an ATV training course and wear mandatory helmets and eye protection. The bill would also restrict ATV access entirely for children under the age of 6. Currently, South Carolina has no regulations regarding ATV use by children, but some lawmakers hope to change that when the state senate goes back into session in January.
Concerned Families for ATV Safety is one such group working on the national level. Founded by three mothers who experienced losses of children due to ATV accidents, the group is calling for Congress to enact a national ban on ATV use for children under 16. In order to reach that point, the group has its sights set on more realistic goals. An initial proposal would address some current safety concerns by banning sales of adult-size ATVs to children under 16. Other safety concerns would involve mandatory helmets and eye protection, as well as training courses, much like the proposals being considered in South Carolina. However, the future goal is to push through a complete ATV ban for children under 16.