With the end of another school year and summer knocking at the front door lots of kids will be outside doing what kids do- playing. These are the months when a child's boredom level has a short fuse and they can easily be persuaded to ramp up a little danger and excitement when playing with friends.
ATVs (all terrain vehicles) can offer just such a challenge, along with dirt bikes, regular bikes and skateboards. All of the transportation apparatuses listed here can offer a lot of fun and excitement on long summer days. But, as a parent, you already know that they can also be quite dangerous when adults aren’t around to supervise activities. Of course, having an adult nearby is no guarantee that safety will prevail if they themselves aren’t acting responsibly. But let’s assume they are and they want their child to have fun and be safe.
Of all the activities listed above, ATVs bring their own particular set of safety concerns. While you most likely won’t be present the entire time your child is riding his or her bike through the neighborhood, you should be present if your child is on a dirt bike or an ATV. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that ATVs continue to be the fourth most deadly product the CPSC oversees, with more than 700 ATV-related deaths per year.
CPSC notes that in 2011, ATV –related deaths decreased. However, the number of estimated injuries per year remains at more than 107,000, with an increase in estimated injuries to children younger than 16 years of age to 29,000. More than half of these injuries were suffered by children younger than 12.
There are some basic guidelines on ATV safety that every parent of a child who is going to be riding one of these vehicles needs to insist upon. This list is a compilation from CPSC’s website on ATV safety and ClassBrain.com.
- Do not allow children younger than 16 to drive or ride on adult ATVs. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that children under the age of 16 should not operate an ATV. This is especially important, since younger children are usually injured on ATVs due to their size or inexperience with operating vehicles. Even once a child is 16 and able to operate an ATV, adult supervision should be present at all times.
- Never allow a child younger than 6 on an ATV. ATVs are simply too dangerous for children under the age of six. Allowing a child under the age of six to operate an ATV is illegal in some states.
- Choose an appropriate ATV size for your child. Your child may be larger than some other children his or her age, but that doesn’t mean they are more capable of controlling a larger than recommended ATV. Riding an ATV safely is not only a matter of size – but skill and strength as well as coordination and maturity. Kids, especially those with little or no prior experience, can easily panic if they find themselves engaged in an unfamiliar situation. A typical situation might be if they accidently open the throttle too much and the ATV takes off quickly. The heavier and more powerful the ATV- the more likely a serious or even fatal accident can occur.
- Most ATVs are designed for only one person. Do not ride on a single-rider ATV as a passenger or carry a passenger if you are the driver. ATVs are designed for only one rider at a time. Since you have to manipulate your weight in order to control the vehicle, two riders on a vehicle is incredibly dangerous. Also, the ATV may be unable to successfully hold the combined weight of two riders, making it less stable and more apt to roll over. Finally, having an additional rider can distract the driver from the task of properly operating the vehicle.
- Always wear a helmet and protective gear when riding ATVs. Just like operating a motorcycle or bike, riding an ATV requires you use proper protective gear. ALWAYS wear a helmet. Most serious or fatal accidents occur when the rider is not wearing a helmet and falls on his or her head. A helmet may not be the most stylish accessory, but it can literally save your life. Also, since most riders operate ATVs in wooded environments, be sure to wear proper eye protection, as a rock, branch, or even a bug can fly into your eye and cause damage. Furthermore, be sure to wear boots and gloves to protect your hands and feet while operating the ATV.
- Do not drive ATVs on paved roads. When it comes to where to ride your ATV, ensure you choose a proper setting. Avoid roads and streets, since ATVs are not designed nor intended to be driven on concrete or asphalt with larger cars and trucks. Also, avoid improper terrain that may encourage the ATV to roll over due to instability in the ground.
- Take a hands-on safety-training course. This is especially important for young or first-time riders. Before you drive a car, you take a safety course, so why should driving an ATV be any different? Safety courses educate riders of the correct way to operate and ride an ATV to ensure he or she knows how to handle the vehicle. Also, safety courses will teach riders of all ages the appropriate behavior when riding an ATV, making it critical for teens and adults to attend.
- Avoid tricks and stunts on ATVs. There are thousands of YouTube videos showing kids and young adults using their ATVs as if they were performing in a circus. What they don’t show are the funerals and life-altering results of children who have lost control of their ATVs. These are heavy machines that can crush a head or a back in an instant. Young boys are particularly fond of showing off their skills and feel they are invincible. They are not.
There’s no turning back the sales of ATVs for young kids, that horse has left the barn. Most of the time, kids will be ok and have a good time. As parents, you make the decision on whether your child will be riding one of these machines or not. Make sure your child is prepared as best they can be before he or she hops on board and turns the key.