Despite their bright paint colors, large tires, and motorcycle-style handlebars, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) aren't for kids. In fact, organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission discourage children and teens under the age of 16 from using these machines because of the high risk of injury. In spite of these recommendations, many kids and teens still get hurt while riding ATVs every year. Researchers from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine and Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock examined how many kids and teens are injured on ATVs each year and the cost of hospitalization associated with those injuries.
Using information from a national database that collects data on child and teen hospitalizations, researchers evaluated hospitalizations for ATV-related injuries that occurred in 1997 and 2000. They noted the severity of each child's injury, how long the child stayed in the hospital, and the total hospital bill.
Over the 2 years studied, 5,292 children needed hospitalization for injuries related to ATVs. From 1997 to 2000, the rate of hospitalization increased 79%. Overall, teen males had the highest risk of injury.
Most of the children and teens stayed in the hospital for less than 4 days, but 10% of the children in the study remained hospitalized for more than 8 days. One third of the children and teens in the study had moderate to severe injuries, and 1% of the children and teens in the study died from ATV-related injuries.
How much did all of these injuries cost? Researchers estimate that hospital charges for ATV-related injuries in children and teens cost more than $74 million, most of which was paid by private insurance companies.
What This Means to You: ATV injuries in kids and teens can be serious, deadly, and costly. Because ATVs pose such a high risk for injury, don't let a child younger than 16 years operate an ATV, and make sure older teens knows how to operate an ATV safely. A child or teen riding an ATV should always wear a helmet.
Source: Jeffrey B. Killingsworth, MPH; John M. Tilford, PhD; James G. Parker, MS; James J. Graham, MD; Rhonda M. Dick, MD; Mary E. Aitken, MD, MPH; Pediatrics, March 2005
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: March 2005