Safe Kids Worldwide Urges: No Children Under 16 on ATVs

WASHINGTON, July 5 -- All-terrain vehicles are involved in approximately 38,000 injuries and 100 deaths to children ages 16 and under each year. While wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injuries, there are no safety devices that adequately protect against other injuries commonly sustained while riding ATVs. Accordingly, Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that no children under age 16 be allowed to ride an ATV under any circumstances.

"Compared to a bike crash, an ATV crash is six times more likely to send a child to the hospital and 12 times more likely to kill a child," says Martin R. Eichelberger, M.D., president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "A child riding an ATV is four times as likely to be seriously injured as a rider over age 16."

ATV rollovers, collisions and ejections can cause instantly fatal head injuries as well as serious nonfatal injuries to the head, spinal cord and abdomen. "ATVs are inherently difficult to operate, and children do not have the cognitive and physical abilities to drive or ride these vehicles safely," says Eichelberger. "If you're not old enough to drive a car on a paved road with traffic control devices, you're certainly not old enough to drive a powerful open-seat vehicle at speeds up to 70 miles per hour over dirt trails and wild terrain."

"Previous efforts to make ATVs safer for kids have proved inadequate," says Alan Korn, SAFE KIDS director of public policy. "Government efforts and the voluntary standards observed by the industry have not kept children out of the emergency room. On the contrary, the number of kids getting seriously injured on ATVs every year is increasing."

In 1998, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the manufacture of three-wheeled ATVs, mandated warning labels and set standards for the engine size of ATVs intended for children. Ten years later, the ATV industry adopted policies restricting the sale of adult-sized ATVs (with engines bigger than 90 cc) for use by children under age 16.

The number of ATV-related injuries per year doubled between 1993 and 2001, and the injury and death rates are highest among riders under 16. In 2003, children accounted for nearly one third of all ATV-related injuries.

"After extensive review of the data, we conclude that there is simply no way to make ATV riding a safe activity for children," says Eichelberger.

Safe Kids Worldwide (formerly the National SAFE KIDS Campaign) is a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, a leading killer of children 14 and under. More than 450 coalitions in 16 countries bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. The organization was founded in 1987 by Children's National Medical Center with support from Johnson & Johnson.

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