All-Terrain Vehicles Are Dangerous

Last week, I read two articles on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). One was in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons (November 2008 issue) and the second article was in Westworld magazine (November 2008 issue). Then I went to the Canada Safety Council website ( to see what they had to say.

ATVs first appeared in Canada in the 1970s. They are used in the farming, forestry, natural resource and law enforcement industries. They are also popular for adventure tourism, recreational trail riding and camping. More than 2.5 million Canadians now ride ATVs and at least 850,000 own one.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the number of estimated injuries treated in the emergency room has almost tripled over the most recent 10-year period – from 53,000 to 150,000. There is a threefold increase in the deaths – from 267 to 870. Twenty per cent of these deaths were amongst children younger that 16 years of age.

CPSC says that ATVs are one of the deadliest products under their jurisdiction. Most of the fatalities are due to rider error. With increased exposure has come a rise in injuries — most of them preventable. Speed, inexperience, improper apparel, non-use of helmets and alcohol are common factors. ATV injuries are more likely to happen to boys aged 15 to 19 than any other group. A US study found that only four per cent of the drivers involved in injury incidents reported having had any training, says the Canada Safety Council website.

The provinces with the largest increases in ATV-related injuries were New Brunswick (90 per cent) and Alberta (89 per cent).

The Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research examined the 20 ATV-related deaths that occurred in the province between July 1999 and June 2002. Among its findings:
-The majority (55 per cent) occurred in the summer, between July and September.
-Eighty-five per cent of the deceased were the drivers of the ATV.
-At least 60 per cent of the fatalities were due to head injuries.
-Children and teens represented 45 per cent of those killed, including two passengers and seven drivers. The deceased drivers were all from 10 to 15 years old.
-Alcohol was involved in 45 per cent of the deaths.

Across Canada, regulations vary. The New Brunswick task force has made the following recommendation:

That youth between the ages of 14 and 16 years be required to obtain an all-terrain vehicle learner’s permit, for which they must have parental permission. The learner’s permit should only be obtained under the following conditions:
-must successfully complete a mandatory Canada Safety Council approved training course;
-must be supervised at all times by a parent or legal guardian who has successfully completed a Canada Safety Council approved training course and has a valid driver’s licence; and
-the size of the all-terrain vehicle being operated cannot exceed the size recommended for their age by the manufacturer.

What are the valuable precautions one can take when riding ATV?

Keep the vehicle off paved roads, avoid tandem rides, wear a helmet, do not drive under the influence of alcohol, and do not allow children to operate adult-sized ATVs. It is also suggested by the American Association of Pediatrics that no children younger than 16 years drive ATVs regardless of the model and whether an automobile driver’s license is required to operate one. The Canada Safety Council offers a hands-on training program led by certified instructors. It may be worth looking into that.

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