Off-road motorcyclists tend to travel at lower speeds and have little risk of collision with cars, compared with motorcyclists who ride road routes. However, off-road motorcyclists face irregular terrain, obstacles such as trees and fences, and other hazards. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids and teens who off-road with motorcycles run the risk of serious injury.
An estimated 23,800 children and teens 19 and younger were treated for off-road motorcycle injuries each year between 2001 and 2004. This study of nonfatal injuries among young off-road motorcycle riders in the United States used data provided by hospital emergency departments on 1,319 of those treated. Off-road motorcycles included any road bike, dirt bike (or trail bike), moped, motor scooter, or minibike. All injuries took place in unpaved areas, such as woods, fields, trails, and backyards, or in a motocross arena.
The study showed:
- The highest rate of nonfatal injuries was in 12- to 15-year-olds.
- Over two thirds of kids injured were under 16 years of age.
- Boys made up nearly 90% of those injured.
- Of those injured, 8% needed to be hospitalized, and those injured in motocross areas were more likely to be hospitalized than those injured in other off-road locations.
- Nearly 40% of the off-roading injuries proved serious and included fractures and internal injuries.
One in five of the injuries occurred during organized motocross events, and many of those injuries occurred during a jump or from hitting another vehicle.
What This Means to You. Off-road motorcycles are incredibly popular among adults and kids — in 2003, about 300,000 off-road motorcycles were sold in the United States. But according to the findings in this report as well as previous research, off-road motorcycling is a dangerous pastime that puts many kids and teens at high risk of injury. Compared with bike riders, motorcyclists are more likely to need hospitalization for injuries sustained on the road.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently recommends that parents should not allow children under 16 to operate motorcycles or all-terrain vehicles. If children or teens do use these vehicles, they should wear protective, full-face helmets to reduce the risk for fatal injury.
Source: J. M. Conn, MS; J. L. Annest, PhD; L. J. Paulozzi, MD; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 9, 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: July 2006