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Rise in ATV injuries prompts warning from trauma specialists

HOUSTON, TX (September11, 2009)


As severe ATV injuries rise sharply among Houston children, trauma specialists at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital--home to the Gulf Coast region's only Level I pediatric trauma center--today called on families to use helmets at all times and to refrain from allowing youngsters to drive adult ATVs.

"Allowing children to operate adult ATVs is like handing them a loaded gun to play with," said Stephen Fletcher, M.D., pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and associate professor of clinical surgery at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. "These are powerful motor vehicles, and many well-intentioned adults do not understand how easily they can lose control of an ATV until it happens to them. Children should not be driving adult ATVs at all."

At Children's Memorial Hermann, trauma specialists treated 29 children with ATV related injuries in 2007, and in 2008, they treated 46, an increase of 58 percent. In 2009 to date, specialists already have treated 37 children, including one fatality.

"The numbers just keep climbing, and many of the children we see have severe injuries that require extensive rehabilitation," Dr. Fletcher said.

Nationwide, children under 16 suffered 40,000 ATV-related injuries, including 107 deaths, in 2007, the latest year for which numbers are available. This accounts for 27 percent of all children's injuries and 20 percent of children's fatalities, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Adults are not immune to ATV injuries. Specialists at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center treated 73 adults with ATV-related injuries in 2007, and they treated 83 in 2008. In 2009 to date, 60 adults have been treated.  Nationwide, more than 150,000 children and adults were injured by ATVs in 2007, according to the CPSC.

Dr. Fletcher recommends that everyone who operates an ATV:

  • Never let children ride without supervision and do not let children drive adult ATVs.
  • Wear a helmet and protective gear.
  • Take an interactive, hands-on safety class for ATVs.
  • Never use alcohol while operating an ATV.

"The key to reducing ATV-related injuries is prevention and responsible operation of these vehicles, especially the use of helmets," Dr. Fletcher said. "One hundred percent of ATV injuries are preventable."

Safety tips for all-terrain vehilces*


  • Take a hands-on safety training course. Drivers with formal, hands-on ATV training have a lower risk of injury than those without formal training.
  • Always wear protective gear, especially a helmet. Many ATV injuries are head injuries. Select a motorcycle or other motorized sports helmet and make sure the helmet is certified by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and/or the Snell Memorial Foundation. Wear over-the-ankle boots, goggles, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt to protect against injuries from rocks, trees and other debris.
  • Do not drive ATVs with a passenger or ride as a passenger. Most ATVs are designed to carry only one person. ATVs are designed for interactive riding - drivers must be able to shift their weight freely in all directions, depending on the situation and terrain. Interactive riding is critical to maintaining safe control of an ATV especially on varying terrain. Passengers can make it difficult for drivers to control the ATV.
  • Do not drive ATVs on paved roads. ATVs are difficult to control on paved roads. Collisions with cars and other vehicles also can be deadly.
  • Do not permit children to drive or ride adult ATVs. Children are involved in about one-third of all ATV-related deaths and hospital emergency room injuries. Most of these deaths and injuries occur when a child is driving or riding on an adult ATV. Children under 16 on adult ATVs are twice as likely to be injured as those riding youth ATVs.
  • Do not drive ATVs while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol and drugs impair reaction time and judgment, two essential skills for safe ATV use.
*Courtesy and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.