Thursday

Doctors Call for Tougher ATV Rules

An all terrain vehicle can be fun, but it can also be dangerous (even for an experienced adult driver). The danger is even greater for a child.

After a 10 year study on ATV injuries, doctors at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine are calling for a ban on use of all terrain vehicles by children under age 16.

We agree. Young kids usually have no experience or training in driving vehicles and the power and speed of an ATV just begs for dangerous use on equally dangerous terrain. The doctors say the result of kids using ATV's has been increasing numbers of child deaths and injuries. In 1/3 of the cases seen, children suffered serious neurological injuries, including cerebral hemorrhages and skull fractures.

The doctors also condemn 3 wheel ATV's. Those are obviously even more dangerously unstable than their 4 wheel counterparts. The danger was detailed by the Consumer Federation of America in 2002 in their "ATV Safety Crisis" report.

All terrain vehicles were first introduced in 1971 and since then they have led to over a quarter million injuries and 600 deaths. What is worse is the fact that 40% of all ATV deaths are estimated to be children.

Not surprisingly, Consumers Union (publishers of Consumer Reports magazine) and practically everyone else agrees. In fact, ATV dangers have been talked about for years. Consumers Union reported on the data released by federal investigators in 2003 but legislators have done nothing but talk. Meantime, more kids are maimed and injured.

While ATV's are covered by the Lemon Law in many states, the problem here isn't mechanical. It's the fact that the industry just doesn't care who it sells them to or how old the intended drivers are.

If parents don't care, the industry certainly won't. And if federal safety officials don't force changes in the law, many parents will visit their kids in hospitals and some will bury them. Yes, that sounds dramatic but it isn't over dramatic. The death or maiming of a child never is, especially when it is preventable.