When recreation becomes deadly

The popularity of all-terrain vehicles, golf carts and other recreational vehicles is on the rise across the country. So is the number of riders — many of them children — who suffer serious injuries and even death.

Crashes involving these types of vehicles bring more than 100,000 children and adults to the emergency room each year. A quarter of them are children under the age of 16. And the number of injuries has been rising since the year 2000. In 2008, the most recent year that complete statistics are available, 109 children across the country younger than age 16 died as a result of ATV-related injuries.

Texas leads the nation in fatal injuries involving children under the age of 16 riding in these vehicles. White, non-Hispanic males were most likely to be injured.

At University Hospital, 53 children were treated for injuries involving ATVs and other recreational-type vehicles in 2013. That was a sizable increase from previous years.

These can be devastating injuries — equally distributed between the head, arms/legs, and chest/abdomen. Those not wearing a helmet are more likely to sustain head injuries. About 12 percent of the injuries require hospitalization. The majority of injuries occurred when the speed was reported at less than 10 mph on dry terrain. Over-turning or rollovers were reported in 60 percent of injuries.

How to be safe on an ATV

  • Always wear a helmet
  • Never allow more riders than the ATV is designed for
  • Stay off paved roads
  • Never let a kid under 16 ride an adult ATV
  • Get trained

Of particular focus is the rise of number of children injured by riding in golf carts. Children account for over 30 percent of patients who were injured in golf carts. Children injured in golf carts are more likely to require hospitalization.

These injuries are more likely to be in the head and neck region of the body. These vehicles are not designed for children under the age of 16 as they do not contain restraints. Children are also not strong enough to grip on to side bars, which prevent passenger from being ejected.

The current recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics is to keep children less than 6 years old off of golf carts. Drivers need to be older than 16 years of age.

Dr. Lillian Liao is medical director of pediatric trauma and burns at University Hospital

Photo by ATVist, WikiCommons