From Our 2007 Archives

ATVs Not the Only Off-Road Danger to Kids

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 2 (HealthDay News) -- Dirt bikes, scooters, go-carts and buggies can all pose a serious risk of injury to kids, a team of researchers report.

They worry that while much media attention has focused on the very real hazards to kids from riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), the dangers from these other off-road vehicles is substantial, as well.

In fact, the report in the July issue of Pediatrics found the number of child injuries linked to all types of non-automobile, motorized vehicles continues to rise. Overall, accidents have jumped 86 percent -- from 70,500 injuries in 1990 to 130,900 injuries in 2003, the experts said.

"ATV injuries are a serious concern, but we believe that pediatric injuries related to other types of non-automobile motorized vehicles are also serious," said lead author Christy L. Collins, from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Columbus Children's Research Institute at Children's Hospital, in Ohio.

The bottom line, she said, is that accidents with each of these types of motorized vehicles can leave kids seriously hurt.

"Children don't have the judgment and motor skills to drive or ride on ATVs, and they don't have the judgment to drive or ride on other types of non-automobile motorized vehicles like go-carts and dune buggies and dirt bikes," Collins said.

There were a total of 1,203,800 U.S. children treated for injuries linked to any and all types of non-automobile motorized vehicles from 1990 to 2003, Collins said. "While the majority of injuries were associated with ATVs (44.8 percent), there were another 21.1 percent related to two-wheeled off-road vehicles, and 13.7 percent related to go-carts and buggies," she said.

In the study, Collins and colleagues collected data on pediatric injuries sustained in accidents involving non-automobile motorized vehicles. The researchers used the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System as their source.

The most common injuries were contusions/abrasions (28.3 percent), fractures (24.2 percent), and lacerations (20 percent), Collins noted.

Collins recommended that if children do drive these vehicles they wear a helmet -- one that includes proper face protection. "Parents should also be aware of the risk of injury to children who are bystanders, not just drivers or passengers," she said.

In addition, Collins said effective legislation covering the use of ATVs should also be extended to other non-automobile motorized vehicles.

Another expert agreed.

"There are enormous risks for children on motorized vehicles of all sorts in the United States, and these injuries are dramatically increasing," said Dr. Mary Aitken, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Little attention has been paid to the risks associated with vehicles such as scooters, go-carts and farm vehicles, Aitken said. "The fact that nearly one-quarter of the injuries to children under 12 years of age were on these types of vehicles is both remarkable and alarming," she said.

"Hopefully, this study will result in a reality check for parents, for the pediatricians and other physicians who counsel them, and for policy makers," Aitken said. "There is nothing 'recreational' about a trip to the emergency department or an admission to the hospital," she added.

Improved awareness and stricter policies to promote use of safety equipment and to limit use of these vehicles by young children may reverse this trend, Aitken said. "As these authors point out, however, there is a lot that is still unknown about the effectiveness of current regulations, and ongoing study is needed," she said.

SOURCES: Christy L. Collins, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Columbus Children's Research Institute, Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Mary Aitken, M.D., associate professor, pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Medicine, and staff physician, Arkansas Children's Hospital, Little Rock, Ark.; July 2007 Pediatrics

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