The debate over whether young children should operate ATVs (all terrain vehicles) has reignited after we heard the tragic news that Jamie Lynn Spears’ (sister to pop queen Britney Spears) daughter Maddie was in a very serious accident involving one of these types of vehicles. It was reported that the 8 year old flipped over into a pond after making a sharp turn to avoid a drainage ditch. The 8 year old was trapped under water inside the overturned ATV until medics were able to release her from the seat belt. Reports now say she is in critical but stable condition in the hospital.
Whether or not young children should be driving ATVs to begin with has been a heated debate ever since the vehicles began to become popular among children. The user’s manual for Maddie’s particular model states ages 10 and above preferred, but ultimately says it is at the parent’s discretion whether or not to let younger children drive.
ATV accidents among both children and adults have been reported on widely and a recent study even found the severity of ATV injuries may be more serious than parents realize. UPI’s Health Day News reported about a study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston that suggests ATV accidents can cause severe chest injuries that can often be fatal, something a helmet can not protect you from. Many of the cases that were looked at suggested accidents and injuries can occur when the child is riding as a passenger or operating the ATV alone.
Director of emergency medicine research at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Gerene Denning, explains why ATV accidents can lead to devastating injuries and even death. Dr. Denning says, “As ATVs have gotten bigger and heavier, riders have a harder time separating from the vehicle in a crash. The increasing size and weight of ATVs leads to more cases of the vehicle striking the rider. There is also a growing trend of riders being pinned by the vehicle, which can lead to compression asphyxia [a condition where the body doesn't get enough oxygen].”
Though many parents whose children were involved in ATV accidents say they were unaware of the dangers, author of the study Dr. Kelly Hagedorn explains that ATV crashes can be just as serious as any motor vehicle related injury. Dr. Hagedorn says, “I believe that many parents are unaware of how serious ATV-related injuries can be. Some parents view ATVs as being more similar to bicycles. However, many of the injury patterns are more similar to those sustained in motor vehicle collisions.” She also advises that children who ride in ATVs take special safety classes, wear protective gear at all times and follow their local laws.
What do you think about allowing children to operate or ride as the passenger in an ATV?
Do you think there should be stricter laws in place when it comes to allowing children to use ATVs?