Riding Safely on ATVs

Riding an ATV can be fun, but can also be dangerous. Due to a growing number of ATV accidents this summer, many involving children, Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health is calling attention to the imminent dangers of all-terrain vehicles.

"Injuries sustained in an ATV accident are about the same as those from a motorcycle accident - they can range from cuts and scrapes to even death," said Dr. George Gantsoudes, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.

The most common ATV-related injuries are long bone fractures of the arms and legs and pelvic fractures. These injuries typically take several months to heal and can have long-term implications. In addition to the possibility for needing plates or screws to repair bones, there is the increased risk of infection.

In children, the fractures can also affect growth plates in the bones. Girls usually grow until age 14 and boys until age 16, said Dr. Gantsoudes. So, if an 8-year-old boy suffers a femur injury that shuts down the growth plate, which provides 1 centimeter of growth per year, that leg will be 8 cm shorter.

"I tell families that children under age 16 should not ride ATVs or motorcycles; helmets should be worn at all times regardless of age," said Dr. Gantsoudes.

To help reduce the potential for accidents and injuries, always follow the manufacturer safety guidelines for your ATV model. Additional safety tips include:

  • Never ride or operate an ATV when you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. Helmet, boots, goggles, gloves, long pants and long sleeved shirt.
  • Keep your cell phone with you, as well as a basic first aid kit.
  • If you’re not completely comfortable operating an ATV, consider taking a rider training course.

ATVs aren't toys, but you can enjoy them, and if you follow all safety guidelines your ride in the woods shouldn’t end up as a ride to the Emergency Room!

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