PITTSBURGH — All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are extremely popular in western Pennsylvania.
They are used for search and rescue, work around farms and ranches, as well as for hunting, and they’re just plain fun to ride. They can cost as much as $30,000 and reach speeds of 70 miles an hour or more.
But they can also be dangerous if not used properly.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Pennsylvania trails only Texas in the number of ATV deaths since 1982.
“We just looked at some of the data from the past five years, and they’re almost as common as bicycle injuries,” said Dr. Barbara Gaines, Director of Trauma and Injury Prevention at UPMC Children’s Hospital. She added “ATVs are known for causing head injuries, spine injury, abdominal injuries and extremity injuries, like broken bones.”
The America Academy of Pediatrics is very blunt on the matter of children and ATVs, saying, “The AAP does not recommend ATV use for children and teens, 16 and younger.”
I went to Snow’s Polaris in Coraopolis to talk to Jon Snow, the general manager. He sells ATVs and believes that with proper training and supervision and safety equipment, ATV operation is just as safe as any other activity. He sells gas powered models for kids as young as 6.
But Snow is quick to warn, “that it’s not a toy, it’s a recreational vehicle that can cause harm or death.”
That's enough for veteran ER physician Dr. Larry Stept to say, "I think ATVs have kind of fallen through the cracks in terms of scrutiny and regulation."
Stept believes they should require licensing, as with cars.
Snow doesn’t agree with that, but warns that single rider ATVs, “quad,” as they’re also known, are for ONE rider only.
And always, always wear a helmet.
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