Ark. Doctor: Children Shouldn’t Ride ATVs

December 5, 2007

A doctor at Arkansas Children’s Hospital reviewed files from more than 500 injury accidents in the last 10 years involving all-terrain vehicles. His conclusion is that youngsters shouldn’t be on ATVs.

Dr. Cetan Shah said six children died at the hospital after ATV accidents in the last 10 years, though that number does not include the number of children who were pronounced dead at the scene and were never brought to the Little Rock hospital, Shah said.

An estimated 49 children under the age of 16 died from ATV-related injuries between 1982 and 2001, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Shah dismissed safety training for youngsters. He said the vehicles are too unstable and the children are too small to control the machines.

“It’s like asking, Should children be smoking low-nicotine cigarettes or high-nicotine cigarettes?” he said. “The answer is no, they should not be smoking at all.”

Among the 500-plus cases he studied, Shaw became aware of traumatized limbs had to be amputated and multiple brain injury cases. He said two children lost eyes and dozens of children were left with brain injuries. In two cases, children’s eye sockets were so badly injured that they each lost an eye.

“We see these horrifying injuries coming through our ER,” Shah said. “We thought that maybe parents aren’t aware that these things are happening.”

He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago. Shah said he hopes the larger forum will help him deliver the message that the vehicles can be dangerous. Shah began the work after seeing so many juvenile victims of ATV crashes. Shah is a radiology fellow at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science and at Children’s Hospital.

An ATV-makers association said in a statement that ATVs are safe for children if the proper safety guidelines are followed.

More than two-thirds of children injured were boys. Shah said the youngest rider was 6 months old, and was hurt while riding with his mother. The infant fractured a femur. In one case, a 2-year-old driver flipped an ATV and suffered debilitating, permanent brain damage.

Shah counted 85 skull fractures, 66 cases of bleeding within the brain, and 59 brain injuries. Accident victims also had 21 spine fractures and five spinal cord injuries. Thirty-six children had lung injuries, and 70 had internal injuries to the spleen, liver, kidneys or pancreas over the 10 years.

He said there were more than 200 fractures, with broken legs the most common. Shah also said there were 12 amputations.

“Most of the kids get a longterm disability, and that’s why I say, ‘Buy one four-wheeler then get one four-wheeler free,”‘ Shah said, indicating the second would be a wheelchair.

The Specialty Vehicle Institute of America trade organization said people can be hurt on ATVs when they lack training or are operating the vehicles in an unsafe manner.

“Parents and guardians literally hold the key to their child’s safety,” the organization said in a news release. “Every ATV has an ignition key, and when an adult controls the key, they control its use.”

The group said children under 16 should drive only appropriately sized ATVs under adult supervision. There are smaller vehicles that are less powerful and are designed for smaller users.

The association says not wearing a helmet, carrying passengers on single-rider vehicles, riding on public roads, using alcohol or drugs, and driving too fast are common causes of accidents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 16 be prohibited from driving ATVs.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

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