We have all probably made the statement recently when someone is testing their limits, “we can’t go to the hospital right now.” I said this recently when I came home to find a gas scooter that my husband and neighbor thought would be a great idea to fix up and give to my nine-year-old son.
This is the same son who once fell down the stairs and when we asked him what happened, he stated, “I don’t know, my legs just got lazy.” When I said that the scooter better go slow, they only responded that he just needs to turn the handle a little to keep it slow.
Mother interpretation: he will turn the handle all the way, will be flying down the road, and likely end up in the ER and something in a cast.
All kidding aside, have you ever had to make that drive to the emergency room as your precious child was in the back of an ambulance? According to Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, over 500 adults, and nearly 100 children die from injuries sustained while riding ATV’s every year.
Children under the age of 16 are more prone to ATV injuries because of their lack of experience and coordination operating large motorized vehicles, and lack of mature judgment. Kids this age often do not wear helmets or receive any formal ATV training even though these are two of the easiest ways to prevent injuries.
All-terrain vehicles can go 60 mph and weigh 600 pounds. I remember when my oldest son was about five years old, and we wanted to buy him a little ATV to ride around at his grandparents' land. I was surprised when the salesman told us it would be safer to buy him a dirt bike his size than an ATV. But it made perfect sense when he compared the weight of each vehicle.
Now imagine placing your child on an adult size ATV and having 600 pounds land on top of them, and please don’t be that person who says, “it won’t happen to us.”
By no means am I trying to ruin all the fun; as a child, I spent plenty of time on all sorts of recreational vehicles from ATVs to snowmobiles. But as an adult in the emergency services field, I have seen more than I ever need to of serious injuries and deaths that could have been prevented if people took better safety precautions.
Below is a list of simple safety tips to follow.
*Always wear a helmet that is designed for ATV usage with eye protection
*Don’t let your children ride an ATV unsupervised
*Don’t ride alone or at night
*Don’t exceed the number of passengers recommended by the manufacturer
*Always ride at a safe speed on a trail meant for ATV use
*Never drive an ATV on paved roads, they are made for dirt roads and are hard to control on pavement and have a greater chance to roll over
*If you want your children to enjoy an ATV, buy one designed for children (engines 70cc and up are too fast for kids younger than 12 years old). Never let a child drive an adult ATV.
ATVs may be used as recreational vehicles, but that doesn’t make them toys. Wearing a helmet on an ATV reduces head and neck injuries by 50 percent! More than 100,000 people are injured each year on ATVs and twenty-five percent of those are under the age of 16.
There are some excellent protective gear choices which include, boots, gloves, goggles, long sleeves and pants, and of course, helmets. When it comes to riding safely this summer, use your brain so you don’t damage it.
Fire Marshal Elizabeth Bednarcik is the fire marshal at Gallatin Fire Department – 615 452-2771;