This weekend I was heartbroken to learn that a 14-year-old boy in my town died tragically in an all terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. Unfortunately he had been riding with no helmet or safety gear and crashed into a tree. The eight grader had just been sitting next to my friend's son at their graduation the day before.
Sadly, it appears that ATV deaths and injuries are on the rise. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, at least 555 people — including more than 100 children — died in all-terrain vehicle accidents in 2006. Government safety officials expect the number to go much higher as they receive information from coroners and hospitals nationwide.
The majority of these accidents occurred when kids were riding adult-size ATVs, were riding recklessly and/or without the proper safety gear.
ATVs don't require a license to drive, so many parents think they are a safe toy for kids. The reality is, however, that they are not a toy at all but a very powerful vehicle that most tweens and teens don't have the ability to control. According to the ATV Safety Institute, more than 90 percent of child injuries are caused by improper driver behavior.
Here's what you can do to keep your kids safe on ATVs.
- Make sure they are riding the right size ATV.
- Have your child take a training course.
- Make sure they wear a helmet.
- They should wear protective gear – like boots, gloves and googles.
- And always supervise your children while they are riding.
Laws vary from state to state when it comes to riding on public land, but the ATV Safety Institute says, no one younger than 6 years old should be on an ATV.
Also, parents can buy ATVs that are smaller and made specifically for kids. Not only are they smaller in size, but they don't go as fast. Parents have the ability to change the speed, so if they don't want their kids going more than 5 miles per hour, they can make the ATV go no more than 5 miles an hour.
For information about ATV training courses in your area, contact the ATV Safety Institute at (800) 887-2887 or log on to www.atvsafety.org.