Are ATVs Safe for Kids?
The Rednecks with Paychecks Off Road event, which is marketed as “4 days & nights of mud, rocks, music and friends,” attracted 10,000 people to the small town of Saint Jo this weekend. The event, which takes place on a 1,200 acre area 70 miles northwest of Fort Worth, is a wild party for off-roading fans.
But local residents question the safety of the festival because young children are permitted to operate all-terrain vehicles. And most of the event-goers drink alcohol — and of course a lot of them get intoxicated.
Sadly, the festival turned tragic on Saturday when 10 year-old Nicholas Torres was killed in a an ATV collision on event grounds. The boy was driving an ATV by himself when he drove into the side of a pickup truck. He was taken to a Fort Worth hospital where he was pronounced dead. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.
ATVs Are Vehicles And Must Be Regulated
ATVs are vehicles, but are often treated like they are toys. Some all-terrain vehicles can reach speeds of up to 70 mph and weigh hundreds of pounds. As with a motorcycle, the vehicles lack important safety features like passenger enclosures, seat belts and airbags, ncreasing the risk of ejection and rollover injuries. The rough, uneven, unpredictable terrain of off-roading obviously increases its dangers. Yet untrained, unsupervised kids are often allowed to get behind the wheel many years before they are allowed to drive a car — and only after taking driver’s ed classes and being supervised by their parents.
In a 30-year study of ATV safety, experts found that close to 12,000 people died in ATV crashes, one-fourth of whom were children younger than 16 years old. During the 10-year period between 2001 and 2011, one-third of all ATV-related injuries that required emergency room treatment were to children younger than 16.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that ATV use is inappropriate for children who are 16 or younger. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission explains that “children under 16 years old lack the developmental skills to safely drive adult ATVs.”
You can take precautions to reduce the risks of driving an ATV, including the following:
- Only permit teens older than 16 years old to operate an ATV
- Learn to drive the vehicle through an official certification class
- Operate a model of ATV appropriate to your age and size
- Always wear a helmet and eye protection while operating an ATV
- Wear safety gear, such as long sleeves, long pants, gloves and boats
- Remain on designated ATV trails
- Do not ride in the dark when visibility is compromised
- Never drive an ATV after drinking alcohol