As a motorcycle owner myself, I understand the desire kids have to stretch their wings and explore the world on the back of an ATV. Being a parent and Bellevue car accident attorney in a Seattle personal injury law firm, however, I also understand how dangerous these activities can be particularly for young children.
All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) became popular in the 70’s and remain a rite of passage for some families. As soon as a child gets to a certain age they receive their first quad or dirt bike replacing the bicycle children the received when they turned three. Though these are popular recreational vehicles and highly useful in rural areas and farms they pose a grave hazard particularly when combined with highways which they are ill-equipped to handle. In 2007 there were 699 deaths and 151,000 visits to the emergency rooms due to serious ATV accidents. 30% of those injured in these ATV accidents are young children under the age of 16.
Most states have passed legislation restricting ATV use in order to help curb these statistics. Washington State’s ATV laws state the ATV must be registered and titled and the owner must receive an off-road vehicle permit to keep with their ATV. Also, ATV use is prohibited from dusk until dawn unless it is properly equipped with both a taillight and headlight. And persons under the age of 13 may not operate an ATV on roads or across highways. Though these laws were enacted to help increase safety they do not address the main reasons accidents occur. If your child asking for an ATV or is already in possession of one there are a few things you can do to help ensure their safety.
1. Enroll In an ATV Safety Course:
Most ATV accidents can be prevented through a proper safety course which teaches you how to better maneuver and react to situations. There are training classes offered throughout the country which will better equip your child for the road. Some places that offer ATV training are the ATV Safety Institute, most local ATV rider groups, state highway departments, and The National 4-H Council sponsors educational seminars on safe riding for children and teenagers.
Drivers that take these classes have a lower injury and crash risk than those learning to ride on their own.
2. Protect Yourself
Wearing protective gear- particularly a helmet is extremely important. Many injuries on ATV’s are head injuries and the simplest way to prevent or lessen these injuries is through the proper use of a helmet. Pick out a motorcycle or motor sport helmet certified by the US Department of Transportation (DOT). Goggles, gloves, long pants and long sleeved shirts will almost help prevent cuts and abrasions.
3. Do Not Carry Passengers
The driver’s ability to shift weight freely to accommodate the change in situation and terrain is essential in maintaining control of the ATV. Having a passenger’s weight in the back makes it difficult to maneuver and control the vehicle.
4. Keep Off Paved Roads
ATV’s are built for land use not pavement and can be difficult to control on paved surfaces. Roads also increase the danger of a collision with cars which often lead to fatal ATV accidents.
5. Children Shouldn’t Be on Adult ATV’S
Children contribute to 1/3 of the death and injury statistics for All-Terrain Vehicles and most of these injuries occur when the child is operating or riding as passenger on an adult ATV. Children should only ride age appropriate ATV’s as these are made with their weight and size in consideration and are easier for children to maneuver.
6. Don’t Drive After Dark
It is illegal in many states to drive from dusk until dawn without a headlight or taillight, but consider not driving at night as a general rule. It is difficult to make out tough terrain and common dangers at night and can often lead to serious injury.
7. Do Not Operate ATV’s Under the Influence
Many people think it is safe to operate an ATV, lawn mower or scooter under the influence simply because it is not a car. Reaction time and judgment are affected just as much while on a slower moving vehicle as in a car and the mixture of the two is just as deadly. You also will be ticketed as readily for driving these vehicles under the influence.