ATV Size Guidelines Put Kids at Risk

<"">All terrain vehicle (ATV) size guidelines do not assure a proper fit, preliminary results from a new study suggest.  These inadequate guidelines, researchers involved in the study say, put children who ride ATVs at a significant risk of injury.

Even though they are used for recreation, ATVs are not toys.  Such vehicles are three or four wheeled and are used for “off-roading” or riding in natural conditions. Many ATVs can go as fast as 55 MPH and can weigh as heavy as a quarter of a ton. Some 75 percent  of the ATV accidents result in serious damage to the head or spinal cord of the accident victim. Head injuries are a major cause of serious life threatening or lifelong physical problems and ailments. Injury to the spinal cord can result in paralysis of the entire body for life.

Earlier this year, a research group at the University of Kentucky made up of  engineers, surgeons, and trauma prevention experts launched a comprehensive multi-year study to measure various physical and behavioral aspects of ATV safety, particularly involving children. Now, those researchers have released results from initial experiments involving ATV size guidelines.  The results from those experiments indicated that although the current guidelines are important because they do limit engine size,  they fall far short of actually determining the correct frame size for young riders. Body size and mechanics directly affect the rider-vehicle fit but are not considered in the current guidelines, the researchers said.

The researchers have found that current ATV size guidelines do not account for variability in body size and shape among children of the same age group or even of the same age. For example: larger children under age 16 may fit the adult-size vehicle frame better, even though the recommendation would be for a “youth” sized frame or engine.  This can lead to the inability to adequately steer, brake, or accommodate varying terrain.

The study found also that seven of the eight children age 6-11 tested did not meet recommended existing guidelines for proper fit when mounted on the adult-size ATV.  The researchers stressed that regardless of experience or supervision, a child in that age group should never be allowed  on an adult-size ATV.

ATVs can be very dangerous vehicles, even in the best of circumstances. According to data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), ATVs killed more than 500 people in 2006 and of those victims nearly 1  in 5 was a child. In addition to ATV deaths, accidents involving these vehicles sent 146,600 people to hospital emergency rooms that same year.  In its annual report released in February, the CPSC said Pennsylvania has had the highest number of reported ATV deaths since 1982, followed by California, West Virginia, Texas and Kentucky. Every state had at least one death attributed to ATVs.

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