WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Less than 37 percent of children injured in an all-terrain vehicle crash were wearing a helmet, and nearly 60 percent of them were riding again within six months after being injured, according to a new study.
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The study also found that warning labels do little to deter children under age 16 from riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and that dealer-sponsored rider training is rare and dismissed by most young riders as unnecessary.
Children under age 16 account for nearly 40 percent of all ATV-related injuries and deaths in the United States each year. Between 2000 and 2007, nearly 1,200 children younger than 16 died in ATV-related crashes, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission.
"Although ATVs have surged in popularity over the past several years, they pose significant dangers for children 16 and under who simply do not have the physical strength, cognitive skills, maturity or judgment to safely operate ATVs," study author Dr. Rebeccah Brown, of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, said in a news release from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"These are hefty motorized vehicles that weigh up to 600 pounds and are capable of reaching speeds of up to 85 miles per hour," she noted.
In this study, researchers looked at 44 children hospitalized following an ATV crash. Their injuries included head/neck (35 percent), chest (10 percent), abdomen (10 percent), fractures (31 percent) and soft tissue (14 percent). The injuries were caused by collisions (36 percent), rollovers (32 percent), and falls from the ATV (23 percent).
In 82 percent of the cases, the children were driving the ATV when the crash occurred, even though 61 percent of parents said the ATV had a label warning against the use of the ATV by children younger than 16 and against carrying passengers.
Most of the children (80 percent) had permission to ride the ATV and nearly two-thirds were under adult supervision. None of the parents received formal course training for safe ATV operation, but 47 percent said they received training from a relative or friend. Seven were offered informal training by the ATV dealer.
After the children recovered from their injuries, 59 percent continued to ride ATVs, and there were no significant improvements in safety or risk-taking behaviors.
The findings were presented Monday at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference in New Orleans.
"ATV manufacturer warning labels are largely ineffective, and ATV training is infrequently offered to ATV users, most of whom deem it unnecessary," Brown said. "Mandatory safety courses and licensing, and enforceable helmet legislation, are needed to reduce ATV use by children."
In another study, researchers said most ATV dealers will discuss selling adult-sized ATVs for use by children under 16, even though federal law prohibits it.
Researchers posed as parents interested in buying an adult-sized ATV for a 12-year-old son at 50 dealerships in four states. Seventy percent of the dealers were willing to show and discuss the sale of an ATV.
"Dealers are there to sell vehicles, although they could be very important partners in preventing child ATV injuries and deaths," study author Dr. Charles Jennissen said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.
Data and conclusions presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
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SOURCE: American Academy of Pediatrics, news releases, Oct. 22, 2012