Neurosurgeons at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are renewing calls for a ban on use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) by children under age 16 after a 10-year review of injuries caused by the vehicles.
“In Missouri, there are currently very few regulations on children’s use of ATVs,” Park notes. “No training or licensing is required. The law states only that children who drive must be a minimum of 16 years old, and that any riders 18 or under must wear helmets. In many cases even these minimal regulations are being ignored. This must change.”
In their paper, Park and his colleagues point out that from the time of the ATV’s introduction in 1971 to 1987, the vehicles caused an estimated 239,000 injuries and 600 deaths. An estimated 40 percent of all ATV-related deaths are children.
As further evidence of the dangers posed by ATVs, Park notes that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that ATV-related accidents led to 125,500 visits to emergency departments in 2003. That made 2003 the second consecutive year that ATV-related injuries set a record.
According to the Children’s Safety Network, one-third of all ATV-related fatalities occurred in children under 16 years of age, and 80 percent of those fatalities were caused by head and spine injuries.
Both figures are available online in a National Ag (Agriculture) Safety Database report on ATV safety (http://www.cdc.gov/nasd/docs/d001801-d001900/d001826/d001826.html). The database is part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which in turn is a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To reduce the increasing rates of serious injury and death from ATV-related accidents, Park and his colleagues strongly recommend new legislation crafted along guidelines previously proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Those guidelines include:
- Banning children younger than 16 from riding ATVs.
- Mandatory helmet laws.
- Mandatory instruction and certification programs for ATV operators.
- Prohibiting ATVs from public streets and highways.
Park also recommends a mandatory recall of all three-wheeled ATVs. Four-wheeled ATVs are dangerously unstable, but three-wheeled ATVs are even more unstable, Park notes.
Mangano FT, Menendez JA, Smyth MD, Leonard JR, Narayan P, Park TS. Pediatric neurosurgical injuries associated with all-terrain vehicle accidents: a 10-year experience at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics 2006 Jul;105(1 Suppl):8-15.
Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.