All terrain vehicles or ATVs are inherently dangerous. They are popular utility vehicles as well as recreational vehicles. Most of them are four wheeled vehicles although three wheeled vehicles used to be manufactured in the 1980s and before. The rate of injury and death with the four wheel variety is disproportionately high in younger riders.
In one study, they looked at people admitted to the emergency room at a level I trauma center from January 1994 through April 2003. A total of 208 patients were discovered to have injuries from an ATV accident. Seventy five percent of patients were male and a total of 84 percent of patients were white. The average age of victims involved in an ATV accident was 23 years of age. They had an average injury severity score of 12.3 and the average Glasgow coma score was 13.1.
Most of the injuries or deaths were a result of a loss of stability to the vehicle at 33 percent, with separation of the rider from the ATV happening at 32 percent. The ATV hit a stationary object a total of 27 percent of the time.
The injury severity score was much higher for victims 12 to 15 years of age than for older ages (14.5 versus 11.5). There were more severe closed head trauma injuries in the younger age group. It was good to note that young people had fewer spinal fractures than older people. Pelvic injuries were fewer than in older patients as well. On the other hand, the Glasgow coma score was lower (worse) in younger patients. Because adolescent victims suffer the greatest degree of injury in ATV accidents, they should be targeted in as many prevention efforts as possible.
On the other hand, severe head and spine trauma from ATV accidents is on the rise. Neurosurgeons around the country are calling for increased efforts to make sure ATVs are more stable and to mandate helmet use in people who use ATVs, especially the youth, who should be targeted also in prevention projects around ATV use.
Statistics around the US are sobering with more than 1 million visits to the emergency room in the US in the year 2001. Of these, there were 495 deaths noted. The cost of injuries secondary to ATV use runs about $3.24 billion per year. People under the age of twenty are disproportionately injured in these vehicles and make up 42 percent of the head trauma and spinal trauma patients because of their ATV use.
One of the problems includes the fact that children are too small to be riding these adult sized vehicles and have undeveloped motor coordination and physical abilities to properly run a vehicle like an ATV. Children also have poor judgment and take on riskier behavior. They are also given few instructions as to how to ride or drive the vehicle. Rollovers were the most common mechanism of the accident, certainly added to the fact that rollovers are often caused by the inherent instability of the vehicle. People need to lean into the vehicle to make any turns and the fact that the ATV has four wheels gives the rider a false sense of security. Clearly, education into riding these vehicles needs to be given, particularly to the youth.